Recently I appeared before the standing committee on Canadian heritage, which is holding hearings in response to the passing of M-103 earlier this year. The hearings are ostensibly about systemic racism and religious discrimination, but some on the committee seem unaware of this.
What should be an investigation into systemic hate in Canada often feels like a referendum on one word mentioned in M-103: Islamophobia.
From the start of the hearings, witnesses have weighed in, with the active support of some committee members, about whether Islamophobia exists, where the term came from, and whether it is an appropriate term of art. Perhaps, some have offered, we should instead use the term “anti-Muslim”; perhaps we should differentiate between hate that is directed at Islam and hate directed at Muslims; perhaps we should be focusing less on Islamophobia and more on Muslim extremism and radicalization.
Each of these theoretical forays into the technicalities of a single term represents a theft from the task of combating systemic hate, which is the mandate of the committee.
Systemic hate is not bound by technicalities, and it is not restricted to any group of individuals. Rather, it is a form of hate that has come to be enshrined in the institutions of a society, silently shaping the attitudes and behaviours of vast members of the population.
People do not realize they are being shaped by systemic hate, whether that takes the form of misogyny, racism, religious discrimination, or something else. We may not think of ourselves as sexist, yet we somehow manage to regularly pay women less. We may not think of ourselves as racist, yet Indigenous people and Black-Canadians are overrepresented in our prisons, and under-represented in positions of power.
The same goes for Islamophobia. Most people do not consider themselves Islamophobic, and believe that they can …read more
Source:: Vancouver Sun