Islamophobia: The Word Matters

Wouldn’t it be lovely if the Conservatives, who pride themselves on their ability to run the federal government like a corporation, would issue a corporate-style FAQ to explain why their anti-discrimination motion is superior to the anti-Islamophobia motion recently tabled by the Liberals.

If they did, it might look something like this…okay, you’re right, it would look nothing like this.* 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What problem is your motion intended to address?

A:  We want to address “the climate of hate and fear exemplified by the recent and senseless violent acts at a Quebec City mosque” by condemning “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities”.

Q: You mention “the violent acts at a Quebec City mosque”.  Are you trying to address Islamophobia?

A:  Umm….no.  Conservatives don’t use the word “Islamophobia”.  We’re talking about *all* forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities”.

Q:  Oh, so you’re worried that the recent attack against the Hutterites is breeding a climate of hate and fear, right?

A:  Hutterites were murdered at worship…?

Q: No, neither were Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Druids.

A:  Thank god!

Q:  The only members of a religious group who were slaughtered while at worship were Muslims.  That’s why the Liberal motion condemns Islamophobia as well as “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”.  Why doesn’t the Conservative motion mention “Islamophobia”?

A:  Because Kellie Leitch says “no religion should be enjoying any special privileges.”


Kellie Leitch CPC Leadership Canadidate

Q:  How does the reference to “Islamophobia” confer “special privileges” on Muslims?   You’re aware that being able to walk into a store and not have your clothing ripped off or being able to pray in a mosque without being killed is not a “privilege,” it’s a Charter right.    

A:  (pause…wheels turning….) Maybe “special privileges” is putting it too strongly; let’s try this:  Chris Alexander says the Liberal motion is “senseless and ill-worded”.


Chris Alexander CPC Leadership Candidate

Q:  I see.  The Liberals want a study on “reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia”.  The Conservatives want a study on reducing or eliminating “all types of discrimination in Canada”. 

You do realize that reducing or eliminating *all* types of discrimination means reducing or eliminating sexism, ageism and homophobia (to name a few) in addition to Islamophobia, right?

A:  Wow, did it really say that? 

Q:  Yes.  Care to comment on Mr Alexander’s criticism that the Liberal motion is “senseless and ill-worded”? 

A:  Nope.

Q:  The Conservatives could have avoided tabling an “ill-worded” motion by replacing the reference to violence at the Quebec City mosque with the word “Islamophobia”.  Why didn’t they do that?

A:  Because “Islamophobia” is a confusing word, no one knows what it means. 

Q:  Really?  Cast your minds back to October 2016.  Remember Petition e-411?  It said: “We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”  The petition was supported in a unanimous (that means you) vote of the House.  The word “Islamophobia” didn’t bother you then… 

A:  Yes but back then the CPC leadership race was just getting started.  No one but Kelly Leitch understood that an opportunistic politician could ride the wave of Islamophobia in Canada as effectively as Donald Trump did in the US.  Kellie opened that door and now most CPC leadership candidates are trampling over her to snag those bigoted voters before she brings them home.                

Q: Aren’t the Conservatives standing on the side of the bigots by failing to condemn Islamophobia?

A: Sure they are, but as long as they cloak their bigotry with the same obfuscation we saw in the Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter debate, they think they’ll get away with it.  They’ll give lip service to fighting religious discrimination while at the same time currying favour with the white supremacists.  It’s a win-win situation. 

Q:  How can it be a win-win if the Conservatives’ refusal to condemn Islamophobia results in the growth of Islamophobia?     

A: No need to worry your pretty little head about that.  Once the Conservatives are back in power, they’ll put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Q:  And if they can’t….?

A:  Who cares, we won.    

Q:  *Heavy sigh*

A: ???

*The words used in describing the motions are taken verbatim from the motions themselves.  See  

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14 Responses to Islamophobia: The Word Matters

  1. Terry Korman says:

    The difference between viewing government as service, and government as the acquisition and profiting from power … your last two answers (A: Who cares, we won … ???) so marvelously exemplifies the essential difference between the radicals who sat to the left of the King back in 1789 France what with their cries of “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”, and those reactionaries to his right who supported (and aspired within) the hierarchical status quo ante. Unfortunately, some ONLY see getting “ahead” through the damage they bring to those “behind”.

    Love your blog … thank you.

    • Thanks Terry! You nailed it with your comment that some see getting “ahead” through the damage they bring to those left “behind”. I think this is all rolled up with the belief that whatever makes up “the good life” is finite, so heaven help any government that wants to improve your lot in life because that means there will be less left over for me. This may be how it works in the economic market place, but this shouldn’t be how it works in government for the benefit of humanity.

  2. jerrymacgp says:

    Refusing to use the term Islamophobia while claiming to condemn the current trend of violent and hateful rhetoric against Muslims, as well as violent acts like the Quebec City mosque attack, is like condemning the Holocaust without referring to Anti-Semitism. As for Islamic extremists, there have always been extremists willing to cloak their terrorism in religion; that doesn’t mean all adherents of that faith are violent.

    In the 1970s, 80s & 90s, the Roman Catholic IRA was engaged in violent rebellion against the British government in Northen Ireland, a period know as The Troubles. Did we then accuse all Roman Catholics of being terrorists? Of course not; that would have been absurd. So why is it OK to be suspicious of all Muslims just because a terrorist group like ISIL claims to be Islamic? You know that ISIL is also killing fellow Muslims? They are Sunni, and have a particular hate on for Shi’ites.

    The Conservative leadership candidates are demonstrating they are willing to pander to the basest of xenophobic instincts in their base.

    • Very well said Jerry. Today’s Globe carried a good article about why it’s so important to condemn Islamophobia–our government must show solidarity with Muslims who are being targeted in Canada. The authors, two immigration and refugee lawyers based in Toronto, say if the Conservatives’ real concern is that the word “Islamophobia” lacks clarity, then they should call for a definition of the term. The authors offer a crisp clear definition: the irrational fear of Muslims.
      It’s a sensible solution but one the Conservatives have chosen to ignore in what you rightly describe as the CPC leadership candidates willingness “to pander to the basest of xenophobic instincts in their base.”
      Here’s the article:

    • GoinFawr says:

      “Refusing to use the term Islamophobia while claiming to condemn the current trend of violent and hateful rhetoric against Muslims, as well as violent acts like the Quebec City mosque attack, is like condemning the Holocaust without referring to Anti-Semitism.”

      I agree, the choice of words is important.

      So, if this particular brand of unfounded hatred is so like “Anti-Semitism” as you claim, why not call it “Anti-Islam” then, instead of applying a wholly different suffix; especially one suggesting a mental disorder (a ‘phobia’)? I mean, I suppose you could make the argument that such prejudices really do indicate a few screws are loose, but as reprehensible as it is, it’s merely a weak political/socioeconomic rationalization, not a neurosis; Eg. even Anders Breivik was deemed ‘sane’ by professionals on the subject, yet a worthless innocents murderer nonetheless.

      Susan, I am usually with you on these matters, but you seem to have built a strawman in your imaginary Q&A above, not much of a challenge to knock them down now is it? It was unconscionable when the press did that to Tommy Douglas, and I will never be impressed when that is done to anyone else, even my enemies. Putting words into others’ mouths, no matter how plausible they may seem to the writer and their readers, is no way to win an argument.

      The conservatives are ‘xenophobic’ only insomuch as the lip service paid to it appeals to their supporters. In practice, just like the liberals, when it comes to breaking the unions and generally lowering wages they’re all about bringing in a fresh labour force under the guise of any pretense that serves. Hocus Pocus!

      In any case let’s see what if anything comes from what is, in my opinion, a poorly worded and presented motion. As an atheist, I intend to continue teasing believers of all three Abrahamic faiths in the same fashion I have always ‘given them the gears’; I’ll let you know if I get hassled for being ‘afraid’ of any of them!

      • GoinFawr says:

        Speaking of ‘poorly worded’:
        “Eg. even Anders Breivik was deemed ‘sane’ by professionals on the subject, yet a worthless innocents murderer nonetheless.”
        That ought to be something more like,
        “Eg. even Anders Breivik was deemed ‘sane’ by professionals on the subject, yet he is a worthless murderer of innocents, nonetheless”

      • Carlos Beca says:

        GoiwFawr I like your logic about the word islamophobia. If that is the case I move that we continue using it when it comes to Donald Trump 🙂

  3. GoinFawr I used the device of a corporate-style FAQ to illustrate the flaws with the Conservatives’ position and hoped that by saying “…okay, you’re right, it would look nothing like this…” readers would recognize that this is NOT how the Conservatives would structure a real FAQ. (Having reviewed many FAQs as an in-house lawyer I can attest to the fact that a corporation selects the questions and answers them in the way that best promotes its case).
    Other than the question about the Hutterites, everything else is either taken verbatim from the motions and the petition or out of the media reports of what that Conservatives were saying about their opposition to M-130.
    The use of the term “Islamophobia” does raise some interesting questions. For me it’s not whether we should use a term that includes the word “phobia” which is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of something, but is not a mental illness. Islamophobia accurately describes the link people like Trump and others have drawn between ISIS and all Muslims. Instead I wonder whether M-130 might be improved if it addressed “anti-Muslim” sentiment. I need to think about this some more.
    I agree that M-130 won’t really change things, but it will create a mechanism to collect data and help us understand the scope of the problem.

    • jerrymacgp says:

      It is also interesting that you mentioning Hutterites in your FAQ above. In all the hullabaloo before & during the last election campaign about religious headgear & dress, I have never seen any Western conservative politician explain how Islamic headscarves, which they seem to abhor, are any different from the headgear worn by Hutterite or conservative Mennonite women as well as by Hutterite men, which are seen out & about in most parts of Alberta; or, in fact, the headgear worn by some Orthodox Jewish men, as can be seen on the streets of Montreal or New York City.

      What are they (conservatives) afraid of?

      • Jerry, we can add the sheitel to your list. Many Orthodox Jewish women wear a sheitel or wig to cover their hair. Wikipedia says it’s part of the modesty-related dress standard called tzniut. As you said: what are the conservatives afraid of?

  4. Well written. From what I have read surveys (and confirmed by comments) would place 25% of Canadians as Islamophobic. The Conservatives can hold this this base and need only another 15% to form a majority government. Worked for Trump. I am far more afraid of white men with guns than Muslims.

    • Thanks for this information Blog Fodder. I didn’t know the percentage of Islamophobic Canadians was that high. We need to work on the 15% to ensure they understand who and what they are voting if someone like Kellie Leitch wins the CPC leadership race.

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    And the news continue to be more and more outrageous and nothing happens. This is related to the subject of this post.

    Today we are proud to announce that in Indonesia 4 people are richer than the other 100 million citizens.
    This is what the Conservatives and the Liberals are fighting for in Canada where already 6 people are richer than 17 million. Not sure about the NDP because they were never in power but judging by the NDP governments in the provinces little or nothing would change.

    The response we get from our governments? Well really we are doing much better than Indonesia
    🙂 🙂
    And people are still wondering what is happening? And people are still believing that Canada is immune to this? And people are still believing in miracles.

    OH WELL Good luck to all of us because with or without democracy the majority rules.

  6. Carlos I agree with you. The rationalization that inequity of this magnitude is OK because Canada is doing better than Indonesia is missing the big picture. It reminds me of an article I read by an oilman who argued climate change was OK because developing oil fields in far away lands meant the poor would at least have a roof over their heads when the weather changed. Made absolutely no sense.

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