Quebec's Bill 59 panders to Islamists
by Farina Hassan
Kowtowing to religious extremism is the worst kind of politics.
But that is precisely what Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has done by introducing Bill 59, which would quash criticism of just about any aspect or interpretation of Islam in that province.
Not just Islam as a broad belief, but any Islamic practice.
For example, a moderate Muslim or anyone else expressing outrage about female genital mutilation could be subject to lawsuits from extremists whose sensibilities were offended by such a view.
Article 3 of the bill permits complaints to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal about anything written on social media perceived as, "fear of the other".
Because female genital mutilation is most prevalent in North Africa, most Western Muslims have little to do with it.
However, according to Bill 59, any criticism of this monstrous practice may offend the sensibilities of a minority who feel it defines their form of Islam.
Did Couillard think through all of the implications of this bill?
It appears to protect extremists by outlawing criticism of practices even most Muslims would reject.
Writers like Tarek Fatah, Salim Mansur and I have repeatedly denounced egregious Islamist practices like wife battery, polygamy and honour killings.
We have challenged the Qur'anic interpretations that lie behind such domestic forms of terrorism.
We now risk being silenced if we were to live in Quebec.
As we have an insider's view of the workings of the minds and machinations of fundamentalists, we are often better qualified to grapple with them.
The secular Muslim Canadian Congress, of which I am a director, has been threatened with lawsuits by more conservative Islamic organizations.
Why should our voices be silenced?
Thankfully the bill cannot limit freedom of speech outside Quebec, as the internet is governed at the federal level.
We are not living in sharia-infested Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
Bill 59 reflects the creeping acceptance of Islamism.
It must not pass.
Ironically, it is defended by its supporters as an effort to fight religious extremism, on the assumption that when impressionable young Muslims hear criticism of Islam they become radicalized.
That is akin to suggesting the actions of bullies should never be challenged for fear they might become even more hostile to their victims.
Efforts to de-radicalize young people should be made in such areas as promoting a more tolerant and modernist view among Muslim Canadian youth.
Extremist ideology should be eliminated from the mosques. Attitudes that promote violence as a religious precept, such as modern interpretations of jihad, ought to be denounced as unfit for an enlightened society.
We must stop the bully in his tracks rather than let him muscle his way into the lives of innocent people.
I hope courageous politicians in Quebec will challenge Bill 59, which is redundant in any event since Canada already has criminal laws proscribing hate speech.
The Quebec bill panders to Islamists who cringe at hearing criticism of their narrow brand of Islam.
It would be a sad day for Canada if Islamists were to gain control of laws limiting freedom of speech in a nation that cherishes the freedom to disagree.
Muslim moderates such as myself and my colleagues have long warned that the greatest threat from Islamism to the Canadian way of life is in the area of curtailing freedom of speech.
Do no let this bill confirm our direst warnings.
What sort of Islam, exactly, is Couillard trying to protect?
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