Friday, February 24, 2017

Op-Ed: Why I oppose the Islamophobia Motion in the Canadian Ontario Parliament

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As a Canadian of Iranian origin, former refugee and former child prisoner from Iran, I have a rational fear of radical Islam.  I grew up in Iran and in a pluralistic country that is mainly Muslim but with people of all faiths where they were treated with dignity, inclusiveness and equality until Iran faced the Islamic Revolution in 1979 where an unknown man in exile named Ayatollah Khomeini came to power with the help of the world powers and the liberal leftist Marxist media brainwashing the naive nation.

The shah was removed by Jimmy Carter and his officials. The royal family together with those against Khomeini's ideology were either executed or arrested. Shia Islamic law was implemented across the country.  Women had to cover their heads in public, co-education was no longer offered in schools, and Friday Prayers were made mandatory for all who worked for educational institutions and government departments. Islam, which had never been imposed upon Iranian citizens, was suddenly forced into the public sphere and Islamic law has been enforced ever since with Iranian women and girls paying the highest price.

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 I left Iran in 1985 after I was freed from Evin Prison, which I was locked in for 18 months in my teens simply for not accepting the rapid destructive and uncivilized changes in my country and for being forced to wear hijab and dark colored Islamic garments. My youth was suddenly crushed and destroyed even though I miraculously escaped the murder and rape I heard every day in that dark place. After I was freed from Evin, my family and I moved to Turkey where I enrolled at university and studied Social Anthropology at two major universities in Ankara. In 1991, my family decided to move to Canada due to the Iranian regime cooperating with radical Islamists in Turkey. I would never have dreamed that in a country that I cherished and found safety and freedom for 26 years, now I would be facing the very same fear and horror of Sharia law that I experienced in Iran and in the early 1990’s in Turkey.

Please allow me to explain why MPP Des Rosiers’ Islamohobia Motion is unnecessary and even dangerous for freedom of speech. The Islamophobia motion calls for limiting the right of Canadians to criticize Islam, which is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus, voting in favor of such a motion makes criticizing Islam illegal. What exactly is this a vote for? Making criticism of the Quran, the Hadith, and Muhammed illegal? Making criticism of ISIS and all radical Islamist groups illegal? Making it illegal to condemn Islamic Sharia law? Will Canadians who criticize Islam or convert from Islam be considered Islamophobic in the new Canada?

What’s next? Will the Canadian government send an Islamic Republic of Iran type morality police to the doorsteps of Canadians critical of Islam while radical imams continue to spew openly radical ideas in schools and mosques? What about Canadians who are suspicious of others plotting possible terrorist activities. Will they be afraid to report it to the authorities if they are wrong? It seems that many in the West use the term Islamophobia without even knowing what Islam is. There might be a lot to be rationally phobic or simply fearful about.

Since October 2015, Canadians have been constantly reminded that to speak negatively about Islam is akin to behaving like a fear-mongering racist xenophobic “Islamophobe.” It is far more probable that they are none of those things; rather that it is the accusers who are racist. Xenophobic really does not apply to Jews, Christians, Yazidis, Hindus, Kurds, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, and a few different sects of Islam; it is truly the other way around. These people are rightfully afraid of harm coming to them from Sharia law and radical Islam.

I want to remind everyone that as a former Evin prisoner, the memories of that season still haunt me today and the threats of the Iranian regime follow me to the great land of Canada. Therefore, I have a reasonable fear of radical Islam. To call my fear a phobia, an irrational fear, lacks compassion and fails to recognize the true reality of the same present danger living close to me once again. I am on their hit list. It was reported that the highest commander of the IRGC very recently said that they would soon kill all dissidents living abroad.

People who are jittery about radical Islam and Sharia law are this way for many reasons: They look at how Sharia law is practiced in Saudi Arabia, Iran, by ISIS and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and are concerned quite justifiably. As a professional and Women's Rights Advocate working for over twenty five years in the settlement sector in Canada, I have been told many stories by Muslims who have been victimized and harassed by their Muslim neighbors and peers in schools for not wearing the hijab, for not fasting during the fasting month, for not eating halal, for owning a dog, or simply for wearing a pendant of the Muslim Shiite Imam Ali while going to the restroom. I also met a Syrian refugee who was physically attacked for buying vegetables and fruits from a Shiite vendor in Ottawa; moderate Muslims being harassed for not forcing their daughters to wear the hijab, or even for writing with their left hand, to name a few, as I mentioned above. Also of concern is the hatred rising between mosques, which was demonstrated in the recent mosque shooting in Quebec City.

The Islamic Cairo Declaration of 1990, written as a direct refutation to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that all human rights are predicated under Islamic Sharia Law. Therefore, according to this view, beheading, stoning, flogging, slavery, child marriage, wife-beating, amputations, and a woman’s worth considered half of a man’s are all human rights. Is that what we want for Canada or in Canada? Or in any country?

All that these purported critics are doing is pointing out what is in Islam’s Sharia law if anyone cared to look. And, when it comes to concern with quality of life, people should care to look. What is it that these extremists are so eager to cover up?

To those of us who have experienced Islamic sharia law first-hand, protecting Western values – free speech, common law, equal justice under the law, democratic (“man-made”) governance; individual freedoms, separation of church and state, an independent judiciary, to name just a few – is indeed cause for concern. Every single one of them is contradicted by Islamic Sharia law or radical Islam.

Why should it be against the law to outspokenly disagree with aspects of a different religion or culture? Especially if it outspokenly threatens ones own? Interesting to note, there are no such terms as Christianophobia or Judeophobia that define a dislike or prejudice against a Judeo Christian worldview and Jews and Christians, especially as a political force. And, when Googling anti-Zionism, a photo appears of Islamist Muslims condemning Jews and the State of Israel. What if Christians and Jews petitioned for anti Christianophobia and anti Judeophobia motions condemning all forms of these? Would we all put duct tape on our mouths? And, it is true that Christians and Jews would never be allowed to petition for this in any Middle Eastern country on the face of the planet.
Canadians are concerned about the rise of Islamist extremism in Canada, which is en route to becoming like Europe with no-go zones. That is why we must keep the secular state and religion completely separate so that no one’s religion and in Islam’s case religious ideology is given special treatment or singled out. Our goal is, and must remain, equal treatment for all. Equality and pluralistic respect can only be achieved when the government acts constitutionally without bias or favoritism towards any particular religion or religious ideology. Our Western Constitution is one that is founded upon the notion that all men and women are created equally and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; free from the harassment of oppressive tyranny inspired by dogma of any sort; religious or political.

In Islam, politics and religion are inseparably intertwined. For this reason, apostasy in Islam is equivalent to treason. A notable expression in Islam says it all, “Islam is a religion and a state.” The Penal Code of Islamic Republic of Iran mandates death for converts. Article 225-1 of this code reads, “Any Muslim who clearly announces that he/she has left Islam and declares blasphemy is an apostate.” In the Qur’an, Bukhari (52:260) repeats this view clearly: “The Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’” According to Ayatollah Khorasani, a prominent Shiite leader in Iran, “The promotion of Christianity in Iran must be stopped for the Bible (The Gospel) is distorted and the Bible is not the Word of God.”

I am an apostate. I have never heard in modern times of a Jew or Christian being killed for leaving their faith! It certainly is not common like it is in the Islamic world or the western world where there are enough "honor" killings to prove the barbarity of the sharia law. However, Quebec and Ontario imams have called for the execution of apostates like me. Calling for the execution or killing of anyone in Canada or abroad based on religion or faith should be a crime against humanity and included in our laws. Any and all Canadian imams caught saying or promoting this must be charged and deported if they hold dual citizenship.

Where are Prime Minister Trudeau, the Parliament of Canada, RCMP, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, the Police, the Premieres, and those who are enforcing M-103 on all the "hate speech" coming from these quarters lately? Why can't we have a motion to remove this excrement from the country rather than punishing those who criticize this ideology--a motion requesting a study on why some Muslims insist on breaking our Canadian laws, promoting violence and demand preferential treatment?

All cultures are not equal and anyone who respects a culture who bases their entire ideology and laws on honor killings, female genital mutilation, child brides as young as 8 years old, rape, marital rape, molestation, pedophilia and torture is to say that you respect the atrocities that it perpetrates. They can call themselves ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Taliban, Al-Shabab, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, devout, extremist, etc. The common denominators are always Islam, the Quran, the Hadith and Sharia, which violates our Canadian Constitution and should not be practiced on Canadian soil for Islam's sharia and ideology cannot coexist with our culture or constitution.

Canada already has laws against inciting violence. Canada has laws to protect Canadians against discrimination based on their faith! We must keep the secular state and religion completely separate, so that no one’s religion, and in Islam’s case religious ideology, is given special treatment or singled out. Our goal is, and must remain, equal treatment for all. Equality and pluralistic respect can only be achieved when the government acts constitutionally without bias or favoritism towards any particular religion or religious ideology.

It is very sad that some Muslims express that they don't feel safe under Canada's Charter of Rights and equality laws. When the government and the media choose one group over another in a country that is diverse, they attack the very fabric that holds all of us together by saying that we are failing at diversity. If we do not treat all groups equally and say no to hatred of all; not singling out one group over another, then this would only degrade our Charter.

It is the responsibility of our officials, educators and the media to remind all people living in this country that we are all equally protected-that no one needs an extra motion or extra protection-for that would make some "more equal" than others. Canadians believe in the equality of people. We believe we are all Canadian. We don't support laws that single out one religion over all the others - for special treatment and for political gain. That is not Canadian. We are a heterogeneous society and must rule based upon equality. It must be equal laws for all--Not the cynical and misguided so-called anti-Islamophobia study/motion/ legislation which is extremely decisive. I respectfully urge the Ontario Parliamentarians to vote against MPP Des Rosiers’ motion condemning Islamophobia. I hope and trust that this biased Motion will be voted down and put to rest, permanently.

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JOL Blogger | Shabnam Assadollahi

Shabnam Assadollahi is a multi-award-winning Canadian human rights activist and freelance writer/journalist of Iranian origin. She has a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology and has worked extensively helping newcomers and refugees resettle in Canada and has distinguished herself as a broadcaster, writer and public speaker. 
Shabnam was arrested and  imprisoned at age 16 for eighteen months in Iran's most notorious prison, Evin. Shabnam’s primary and heartfelt interest is to focus on the Iranian community and world events affecting women and minority communities. 

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