Catholic organization opposes anti-Islamophobia bill
By Deborah Gyapong
Photo Caption: Peter Bhatti, when he visited Parliament with his brother Shahbaz only a few weeks before Shahbaz was assassinated on Mar. 2, 2011. Bhatti, chairman of International Christian Voice, fought against M-103 due to its discriminatory nature against other religions.
The Catholic Civil Rights League is opposing the “anti-Islamophobia motion” M-103, saying it’s laudable to try to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear,” but not by imposing increasing limitations on free speech.
A Feb. 16 statement from the league said it opposes defamation of the Catholic faith, but not at the expense of healthy debate.
A Liberal private member’s Motion M-103 calling on the government to condemn Islamophobia has divided Parliament and raised concerns about freedom of speech.
“Faith and reason go hand in hand, and Christians are unafraid of a public skirmish on faith claims,” said the statement. “Such defamations should be exposed to the ridicule they deserve in open debate.”
“M-103 speaks to none of this,” the league said. “The motivation of the motion is suggestive of inclusion of ‘Islamophobia’ into a hate crime, when legitimate concerns over mainstream or extreme aspects of Islam should be open to debate....”
Peter Bhatti, chairman of International Christian Voice, an organization in Canada fighting for persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan, said “the Islamophobia motion should be withdrawn.”
“It discriminates against other religions in favour of one religion,” he said. “We are victims of this kind of law in Pakistan,” where blasphemy laws have been used to persecute Christians, other religious minorities, and even Muslims on the grounds they have criticized Islam, Muhammad or the Koran.
His brother Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minorities Minister in the Pakistani government, was assassinated six years ago because of his opposition to the blasphemy laws. “Due to this law my brother got killed,” he said. “We left that country because of this kind of discrimination.”
“We came here where everyone is treated equally and has freedom of speech and conscience,” he said.
MP Iqra Khalid, a Muslim Canadian who represents the Ontario riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills, introduced the motion late last year. It came up for its first of two hours of debate Feb. 15.
“To suggest that my motion, the aim of which is to initiate a study of systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada, could possibly impact the freedom of speech enjoyed by Canadians demonstrates a lack of understanding of how our Charter works,” Khalid told the House of Commons.
Rather, he said, it would “bolster the state of freedom of speech in Canada by making certain that all voices are able to be heard on a level playing field.”