Some fears of Islam justified, human rights lawyer tells M103 committee
Protesters rally over motion M-103, the Liberal anti-Islamophobia motion, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 21, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
A celebrated Canadian human rights lawyer urged MPs to be careful in their use of the term Islamophobia, saying “fear of some elements of Islam is mere prudence.”
David Matas, an Order of Canada recipient who began his career as a clerk for the Chief Justice of Canada in the 1960s, delivered testimony Wednesday before the M-103 committee hearings in his capacity as senior counsel to B’nai Brith Canada.
“Not every fear of Islam is Islamophobia,” Matas said to the House of Commons Heritage Committee, noting that anyone who is not afraid of the various radical Islamic terrorist outfits in the world is “foolhardy”.
“Islamophobia does not appear in a vacuum,” Matas told MPs. “It grows out of a fear of incitement and acts of hatred and terrorism coming from elements of the Islamic community.”
The Winnipeg-based lawyer, who ran for office years ago as a Liberal, recommended the committee take a “dual focus” approach on both those victimized by Islamophobia and those within the Islamic community inciting hatred and terrorism.
Following Matas’ testimony, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, urged the committee to aim towards a more precise definition of Islamophobia.
M-103 was nominally designed to denounce, and study, all forms of racism and discrimination, but has faced extensive controversy for singling out Islam.
Fogel pointed to a Toronto District School Board booklet’s definition of Islamophobia that included mere dislike of political Islam as worthy of censure.
“This incident exposes significant problems with relying on ad hoc, inadequate definitions of Islamophobia,” said Fogel.
On Monday, Muslim author and Sun columnist Farzana Hassan told the committee her concerns about how the term is used in other countries to suppress criticism from within the faith.