by: Tahir Gora
Freedom of Expression is at the very heart of Western political values including Canadian and American values. It’s a fundamental part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These constitutional structures allow Canadians and Americans to practice their religions freely as well as they guarantee an individual the freedom to sever ties with his previous beliefs if she/he chooses to.
But the proponents and opponents of freedom of speech are caught up in unpleasant if not ugly back and forth arguments in the wake of the ‘Islamophobia’ uproar.
We are witnessing a chain of incidences linked with reactions following 9/11. The biggest reactions worldwide were denial of terrorism and conspiracy theories, particularly by Muslim communities. Those reactions by the majority communities in the west further compounded and complicated the situation as the ‘silent’ majority of Muslims chose to remain silent and did not condemn terrorism fueled by Islamic supremacy ideas.
In contrast, many radical Imams and their Islamic centres based in the West continued to demonize the western world and kept praying and chanting for the destruction of the West.
That scenario created a general suspicion about Islam and Muslims in the eyes of fellow citizens, what Muslims started to call it ‘Islamophobia’.
The Canadian Liberal Government put forward a motion, M103 against Islamophobia. The term Islamophobia gained worldwide approval, particularly after the New Zealand Mosques attacks.
Most Islamic organizations started pushing forcefully to equate Islamophobia with Anti-Semitism. They are asking western governments to introduce legislation against Islamophobia the way laws are in place against Anti-Semitism.
But there is a huge difference between laws against Anti-Semitism and the so-called Islamophobia.
Legislation against Anti-Semitism includes curbing denial of holocaust and institutional and constitutional hatred against Jews.
But there is no institutional and constitutional hatred towards Muslims.
Laws against Anti-Semitism don’t include criticism towards Judaism or any religion, but Islamic groups are asking for barriers against attempts to criticize Islamic theology under the proposed anti-Islamophobic legislation.
So in context of this debate, a large number of Muslim activists are emerging worldwide to lobby for anti-Islamophobic laws. Western activists are also showing up to resist such moves.
Meanwhile, Islamic extremist related terrorism is still on the prowl from China to Africa and from Middle East to Europe and North America.
A recent attack on New Zealand Mosques sparked a debate worldwide to denounce White Supremacy.
Some even asked to condemn waves of white nationalism, white populism or white right wing ideologies. However, equating white supremacy with Western nationalism would be like questioning Chinese, Japanese, Russian or Indian nationalism.
While living in an age of reactionary ideas, people from opposite camps need to sit for a candid dialogue for their own introspection so that the world might avoid huge collateral damage.
Instead of naming and accusing each other with hollow and shallow political sloganeering, it’s important to engage ourselves in honest intellectual dialogue in order to maintain an existing environment of free speech.