Letter: Neither censorship nor hate is acceptable

Vancouver Sun | March 2, 2018

Re: Criticism of religious groups is good for religion, Opinion, Feb. 12.

David Haskell’s recent piece misrepresents positions taken by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).

The NCCM in no way seeks to shield the Islamic faith, or any other belief system, from criticism. Moreover, the NCCM didn’t endorse the initial definition of Islamophobia used by the Toronto District School Board in its educator’s guidebook. In fact, our organization advised that the definition used by the Ontario Human Rights Commission should be adopted, and referenced this very definition in our testimony before the heritage committee.

Even a cursory examination of the Islamic tradition demonstrates Muslims themselves have a long history of self-critique and debate about their faith. Criticism of faith or religious practices is expected, and goes to the heart of our constitutional right to freedom of expression that we all must enjoy and safeguard.

Islamophobia, which is stereotypes, bias or acts of hostility directed toward individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general, like anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia, can’t be considered legitimate expression.

We all agree that censorship is never the answer. But, as we learned last year, unchecked hatred can have devastating consequences. Let’s commit to fighting Islamophobia and all forms of hate in Canada.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director, National Council of Canadian Muslims, Ottawa