I'd like to thank you and respond in kind and say it is an honour to be here, particularly having you in the chair.
I realize that M-103 mentions only Islamophobia by name, but is not just about Islamophobia. All the same, I would suggest for the committee that Islamophobia cannot and should not be ignored, both the concept and the question of what to do about it.
Literally, “Islamophobia” means “irrational fear of Islam”. The concept acknowledges the existence of its opposite. Not every fear, for instance, of being confined in a tiny space is claustrophobia. Sometimes the fear is rational. Similarly, not every fear of Islam is Islamophobia. Sometimes that fear too is rational. Adherents to some components of Islam preach hatred and terrorism, incite hatred and terrorism, and engage in hate-motivated acts and terrorist crimes. Fear of these forms of Islam is a rational response to the threat they represent.
Anyone who is not afraid of, for instance, al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Islamic Jihad in Syria, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in the West Bank, or al Shabaab in Somalia is foolhardy. Many terrorist Islamic groups are listed under Canadian legislation as terrorist entities. We have troops in Afghanistan training and advising in the combat against the Taliban. Fear of some elements of Islam is mere prudence.
Islamophobia is misplaced because it is overbroad. However, we must not be carried away by the combat against overbreadth and go to the opposite extreme of being too narrow, of ignoring or, even worse, of standing against the fear of those elements of Islam about which there is every reason to be afraid.
Islamophobia does not appear in a vacuum. It grows out of a fear of incitement to, and acts of, hatred and terrorism coming from elements of the Islamic community. Combatting Islamophobia effectively means targeting the real threats within the Islamic community and not the innocents who have no association with the threats.
While targeting a threat of incitement and acts of hatred and terror directly and proportionately is easier said than done, often difficult decisions have to be made. It is, I acknowledge, asking too much to expect the committee to go through the various measures that governments worldwide have adopted or proposed to combat the threats and acts of hatred and terror coming from Islamic radicals. We suggest that what the committee can easily do is propose criteria with illustrated examples that can guide those directly involved in the combat against the threatened acts of hatred and terror coming from Islamic radicals. The criteria and the guidance would help those involved determine whether a particular action intended to counter a threat from Islamic radicals is indeed proportionate or Islamophobic.
The House of Commons resolution calls for the committee study to use that holistic response. A holistic response, when it comes to Islamophobia, requires a dual focus: a focus both on those victimized by Islamophobia and on the incitement of acts of hatred and terrorism that come from within elements of the Islamic community.