As noted previously on this blog, last Saturday night I appeared as a panelist at the "Message of Peace: Countering Islamophobia" conference, hosted by the University of Toronto's Muslim Students' Association and ICNA Canada. Because the format was Q&A, I wasn't able to deliver a lengthy speech. But here were the talking points I'd prepared on the subject:
- Contrary to what some pundits argue, I do believe Islamophobia is a real phenomenon. Which is to say: I do believe there are some Canadians out there who have an irrational fear of Islam. For these purposes, I define "irrational fear" as a fear that goes beyond (a) the very real, legitimate and widely shared fear of Islamist terrorism; and (b) the very real, legitimate and widely shared concern about retrograde Islamist attitudes toward women being imported into Canadian society.
- Outside of outright bigots (of which all Western nations have a few), Islamophobia in Canada largely is confined to a small cadre of hyper-conservative culture warriors (Perhaps a few of them will out themselves in the comment section below). In fact, overall, I think Canada likely ranks as one of the least Islamophobic nations in the Western world (just as it is one of the least anti-Semitic nations in the Western world). This is not because Canadians are particularly wonderful people — but, rather, because we happen to have a generally well-educated and well-integrated Muslim minority population. Unlike many of the nations of Europe, there is no Canadian equivalent of the impoverished, ghetto-like Muslim cités on the outskirts of Paris, or the no-go (for non-Muslim) areas in central England. There are a few radical mosques in Canada with some bad apples, but they are well-penetrated by intelligence agents and informants.