Thank you to Scott Reid, MP for Carleton Place
The behaviour of Liberal MPs on the committee studying Motion M-103, towards witnesses who are moderate Muslims, has in general been disappointing. But Monday it reached a new low in an exchange between Arif Virani, the Liberal MP for Parkdale-High Park, and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
In his testimony, Dr. Jasser, who describes himself as “an American Muslim who loves my faith and loves my country,” stated that
“We helped found the Muslim reform movement that was founded in December 2015, and we have members across the US, Canada and Europe, including Raheel Raza…. Much of what we say on behalf of liberal rights, liberal ideas, women’s rights, minority rights within Islam is often identified as blasphemy by Islamic regimes. It is identified as heretical by mosques in the west and identified as ‘Islamophobic’….”
He also pointed to what he sees as a problem, in the fact that Motion M-103 makes reference to a electronic petition submitted to the House of Commons last year (Petition E-411, which calls on Parliament to condemn “all forms of Islamophobia”). His comment:
“Where it [M-103] asks you to … take note of E-411, I should tell you that the language of E-411 actually smacks of a lot of the language of theocracies from Iran to Saudi Arabia … and that it will actually only empower tribal leaders and Islamists within our community.”
Mr. Virani’s response was to ignore the goals of the Muslim reform movement, and instead argue that Dr. Jasser is an extremist because he associates with someone (Raheel Raza), who is extreme because she associates with a platform (Rebel Media), which is extreme because some prior witnesses had characterized it as “divisive.”
Got it? Here’s the quote:
“You mentioned Ms. Raza as someone who shares your view of the world, so to speak…someone you’ve collaborated with. Ms Raza is demonstrated to be somebody who continues to participate in certain platforms, such as TheRebel.media …. That platform has been identified by other witnesses as a divisive platform, in this committee.”
But Mr. Virani wasn’t done. Employing a tactic that several Liberal MPs have used during the M-103 hearings, he used up the time that Dr. Jasser would have needed in order to respond, to engage in a further ad hominem attack:
“The point you raised about petition E-411 I found particularly offensive, I’ll be candid with you, because 70,000 Canadians signed that petition and you compared it to the theocratic gestures you found in other parts of the world. I think most Canadians would find that quite offensive, sir.”
Happily, the Chair responded to Mr. Virani’s attempt to deny Dr. Jasser the ability to reply by giving him an extra minute. Dr. Jasser’s response was brilliant:
“[T]he bottom line is that it [Motion M-103] was offered by MP Iqra Khalid under the premise of E-411. There is nothing offensive about a Muslim telling you that, in other countries that are not as free democracies as Canada and the United States are, this same language is being used to suppress any dissent from citizens in their country who said … they’re being put in prison for criticizing Islam. That is why it is called Islamophobia.
“By you impugning Raheel Raza’s work by saying that she appeared on this or that media, rather than addressing the substance of what I’ve said, what she has said, I think proves the weakness of your argument, that you simply want to do ‘guilt by association,’ which you, as a Muslim, claim is bigotry [when it is done against us.]”
This exchange is symptomatic of a bizarre phenomenon, in which Liberal MPs on the M-103 committee seem to want to slander reformers and feminists within the Muslim community, and deprive them of their voice. I was on the verge of saying, that the Liberals are doing so on behalf of reactionary elements in that community—except that I see no evidence that any Muslim, reactionary or otherwise, seems to be seeking out these attacks. And the strangest thing of all is to watch the attacks coming from an MP who is himself a member of the Ismaili community—one of the most open-minded and generous-spirited faith communities of any sort, in Canada or the world.
I just don’t get why these Liberal attacks keep happening.