Op-ed

M-103: Canada’s Tackle on Free Speech and Who It’s Really Hurting

The line between freedom of speech and hate speech has become blurred in recent years. What speech contributes to hate? What is the just use of speech in an engaged debate? From college campuses silencing speakers due to opposing views to governments banning certain topics from discussion, we’ve run into a regressive time period where we are being shown that if a subject appears too controversial to discuss, we don’t. One of the most recent governments that is now toying with the idea of freedom of speech and to critique is Canada.

On March 23rd, 2017, the Motion 103, which is also known as M-103, was passed with a vote of 201-91. The text of the motion was passed to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” against Islam and to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” It also calls for the government to collect data to give a greater context for hate crime reports. Further data on this will be presented within the next eight months.

Basically, the motion’s intent is to cease any and all discrimination against the ideology of Islam and Muslims alike. The concept of discrimination against Muslims should be, of course, condemned so which is why I applaud their action to zone in on hate crimes and possibly be able to provide increased data on the subject.

However, while I can recognize the motion is intended to be a peaceful attempt at combating discrimination against Islam and Muslims; the motion actually plays into the liberal narrative of not questioning Islam because any form of critique of it can be considered as discrimination. Instead of allowing a free discussion and debate of the religion, it silences and criminalizes free thought.

Islam is one of the fastest growing religions. To not put it under a microscope to discuss its ideologies would just be plain ignorant. To label the religion as off-topic for debate in fear of offending someone is exactly why we continue to have a public in fear of trying to understand the religion. The motion may be put in place to halt racism, but could also potentially harm many rational critics of Islam who go on to further our understanding it and that is a restrain on our right to discuss. We are, unfortunately, still in a period of time where critics such as Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are unfairly labeled as “Anti-Muslim extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Nawaz has gone on to speak against extremism and is the Founding Chairman of Quillam- an organization “focusing on matters of integration, citizenship & identity, religious freedom, immigration, extremism and terrorism.” Hirsi Ali is the founder of the AHA Foundation- an organization founded in defense for women’s rights that was originally formed to support Muslim dissidents who have suffered for their religious and political beliefs, but has broadened to overall women’s rights.

When the motion is to be brought back into discussion in April, a more appropriate rewording of it would be to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, as well as bigotry against all religions because there should be no idea or religion that is prioritized above our freedom of speech.

People have every right to believe or not to believe in any religion. People have rights. Ideologies don’t.

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Hannah Alzgal

Hannah Alzgal is 18 years old and this is her first year writing for Affinity. She will be covering various topics from intersectional feminism to political affairs. In her free time, she enjoys writing short stories and reading.

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