Poll: Over Half of Canadians Think Islamophobia Fears ‘Overblown’ by Media

Opponents of the anti-Islamophobia federal government motion M-103 wave Canadian flags during a rally outside City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Following the passage of a controversial, though non-binding, parliament bill condemning “Islamophobia,” a national poll found that most Canadians consider the threat of discrimination against Muslims “overblown,” the product of media hype.

The Angus Reid Institute poll, released on Thursday and conducted between March 13 and March 17, found that 55 percent of respondents believe “media and politicians have ‘overblown'” concerns about Islamophobia, according to the Toronto Sun.

42 percent would have voted against Motion 103, a parliamentary resolution calling on the government to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” against Muslims. 29 percent said they would have voted for the bill had they been allowed to, and the same amount said they were not sure.

30 percent of Canadians told Angus Reid that they considered M-103 a “threat to Canadians’ freedom of speech.”

Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Iqra Khalid succeeded in getting M-103 passed through Parliament on Friday. The law demands the government act to contain attitudes of suspicion around Islam without proscribing specific commands on how the government should act.

For example, it demands a “government-wide approach for reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination.” The Independent suggests this would result in data collection on hate crimes and increased scrutiny around communities considered especially at risk for instances of Islamophobia.

Conservatives vocally opposed the motion, arguing that it was a threat to free speech and could bolster the arguments of Canadian Muslims who support expanded implementation of Sharia law. Its vague language – the motion does not, for example, define “Islamophobia” – Conservative MPs also argued, could lead to Canadian authorities being given inappropriate power to shut down speech it found distasteful, a threat to the human rights of Canadians.

Among those opponents are Muslims who left the faith after experiencing severe abuse under Sharia law. “They forced me into marriage, my brother attempted to murder me for the honor killing many times, if it wasn’t for my grandmother I would be killed,” Sandra Solomon, a former Muslim and anti-Sharia activist in Canada told Jamie Glazov this week. “With [PM Justin] Trudeau, this government trying to impose Sharia law on us again.” In addition to protests, Solomon, who grew up in Saudi Arabia, translates sermons given at Canadians mosques from Arabic into English, many of which call for the death of apostates like her, she says.

Other Conservative MPs argued that the focus on Islam made the motion discriminatory and attempted to amend it to include other types of religious discrimination. MP David Anderson proposed an amendment to rephrase the “Islamophobia” language to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.” The motion failed because Liberal MPs argued that the new language protecting all Canadians would have “watered down” the intent of the motion.

“Instead of pursuing these changes, in an effort to have a meaningful, inclusive and non-partisan study on the matters of racism and religious discrimination, a debate that should unify us, the Liberals have decided there are more political points to win by ramming this motion through regardless of legitimate concerns I’ve articulated,” Conservative MP David Sweet lamented.

While claiming language protecting Sikhs and Jews would have “watered down” the bill, Khalid told her colleagues before the vote that her motion “does not give one religion or community special privilege over another,” largely because it is “not legally binding.”

The motion has passed after months of the Liberal Party arguing that Islamophobia is a growing problem among Canadians. “Do we have a problem with Islamophobia in this country? Yes we do,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this month, arguing that Islamophobic people should be vocal in their opposition to the M-103 so Canada can “deal with it as a society.”