Editor’s note: This post was updated to reflect the result of Tuesday afternoon’s vote on a Conservative motion.
The Conservative reaction to a Liberal MP’s bid to address systemic racism in general – and Islamophobia in particular – has created “waves of xenophobia all over the country,” the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum said Tuesday.
Samer Majzoub’s statement came hours before the House of Commons voted on, and defeated, a Conservative-backed motion to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christian, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”
Though Majzoub and his colleagues did not ask Liberal and NDP MPs to vote one way or another, he said Conservative MP David Anderson’s motion is not genuine, and the timing is “so wrong, not acceptable.”
The Islamophobia debate in Ottawa
The inclusion of the word “Islamophobia” in Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s motion, known as M-103, has kicked up a storm in Ottawa, with a number of Conservative MPs – including several leadership hopefuls – saying the motion is an attack on freedom of speech.
The fact the word “Islamophobia” is included – yet not explicitly defined – could suppress freedom of expression, some Conservatives have argued; without a clear definition of the term, could the criticism of any element of Islam or Muslim culture become forbidden, they’ve asked.
WATCH: MPs show little compromise on contentious Islamophobia motion before House of Commons
In response to those questions – and Khalid’s refusal to amend the wording of her motion – Anderson introduced his own. Because of the nature of each motion and how they were introduced, Anderson’s will be voted on first. Khalid’s will not come up for a vote until the spring.
WATCH: Muslim Canadian Forum says Muslims won’t be ‘political footballs’
To the members of the Canadian Muslim Federation who were present in Ottawa ahead of Tuesday’s vote, there is nothing inherently wrong with Anderson’s motion – it’s the context in which it was introduced and the “disingenuous” concern about including the word “Islamophobia.”
“In order to tackle an issue, you need to name it,” said Kathy Malas, a spokesperson for the association. “It’s deplorable that we’re fighting over a word instead of passing the motion.”
Liberals will not support Anderson’s motion
Malas, her French counterpart, Sama Jebbari, and Majzoub pointed to the recent mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, a small demonstration outside a Toronto mosque calling for a ban on Islam, vandalism at a mosque in Montreal and the hateful and threatening messages Khalid recently received.
“Why not name Islamophobia? Is what’s happening around us not Islamophobia … What is it if it’s not?” Jebbari asked. “We have to stop denying the existence of Islamophobia. It’s a phenomenon that exists … Fighting Islamophobia is not about stopping freedom of speech, is not about stopping criticism of Islam.”
The Liberals said they are standing behind their MP’s motion – which calls on the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” and condemn Islamophobia, as well as all other kinds of “systemic racism and religious discrimination” – rather than voting for Anderson’s.
WATCH: Conservatives politicizing motion to tackle Islamophobia: Liberals
The main difference between the two motions is the word “Islamophobia.” Both motions ask for a study into the state of racism and discrimination across the country, and neither will create or have an effect on Canadian law.
Since all Liberals voted against the Conservative motion, it did not pass – a result Majzoub and his colleagues support.
WATCH: ‘Hate speech is not free speech’
Although Conservatives are fighting Khalid’s motion, they supported a similar motion just a few months ago.
In the Ontario legislature, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said he will support a Liberal anti-Islamophobia motion from a Liberal member. His support means the Ontario motion is unlikely to garner the kind of debate happening in the House of Commons.
— With files from The Canadian Press