Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

AGAINST WAR & ALL VIOLENCE

Posted by strattof on January 15, 2015

As our banner states, Making Peace Vigil is “against war & all violence.” We are appalled by the killing of the journalists at the Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo. We are equally appalled by the killing of people in Iraq by dropping bombs on them. We want peace!

  • Peace is not the absence of conflict. Rather, it is a commitment to resolve conflict in a non-violent manner.
  • Making peace is hard work. It requires identifying and resolving the root causes of conflict.
  • Peace is inextricably intertwined with justice. There will be no peace until there is justice.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH: A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT

There is general agreement that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons about Islam are offensive and racist. Many western leaders and media outlets have, however, defended the cartoons’ publication by upholding freedom of speech as our highest principle.

Freedom of speech is a core principle of democratic societies, upheld by the Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Article 18).

LIMITS ON FREE SPEECH

In practice, however, all societies place some limits on free speech.

In Canada, for example:

  • Child pornography is illegal.
  • Libel laws prevent us making harmful false statements about other people.
  • Although sexist speech is not illegal, very few people are upholding the free speech rights of the Dalhousie dentistry students who made misogynistic facebook postings about their female peers. Most people are calling for their punishment.
  • Anti-Semitic speech is also not illegal in Canada. However, because most of us find it abhorrent ‒ as undermining our basic values ‒ it is, in effect, banned from mainstream media and political discourse by social pressure.

DOUBLE STANDARDS

Like anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim speech is not illegal in Canada. However, unlike anti-Semitism, it appears very regularly in our mainstream media and political discourse. For example:

  • The Charlie Hebdo cartoons have been reprinted in the mainstream media in Canada.
  • Prime Minister Harper regularly uses the words “Islamicism” and “Islamic terrorism,” thus demonizing an entire religion and promoting hatred and fear of Muslims. 

FREE SPEECH: A COVER FOR RACISM

Is the free speech defence of Charlie Hebdo a cover for anti-Muslim racism? (In 2009, Charlie Hebdo fired one of its cartoonists for his anti-Semitism.)

ISLAMOPHOBIA

“Islamophobia” is the name given to anti-Muslim racism. A 2011 Center for American Progress report defines “Islamophobia” as “an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility towards Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in the bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from…social, political, and civic life.”

3 MORE EXAMPLES OF ISLAMOPHOBIA

  1. Use of the word “terrorist”: For example, in 2014, there were three “lone wolf” attacks in Canada. Two ‒ the fatal shooting of a policeman in Quebec and the attack on Parliament Hill ‒ were carried out by “recent converts to Islam.” A third ‒ the fatal shooting of three Mounties in Moncton ‒ was the act of a young man from “a good Christian family.” Only the first two were labelled “terrorist” by the Harper government and the media. In our society, terrorist = Muslim.
  2. Refugees from Syria: ●The war in Syria has displaced 10 million people. In 2013, Canada committed to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014. Only 700 had arrived as of December. ●Recently, the Harper government said it planned to resettle up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years, giving priority to “persecuted ethnic and religious minorities.” In practice that would mean Canada would offer refuge preferentially to Christians and other minority communities. The majority of those affected by the war are Sunni Muslims. 
  3. The hullabaloo over veils: Why are so many non-Muslim Canadians upset or even angry when we see women veiled? Feminists seem to be particularly disturbed. Does the veil threaten “our freedom”? But freedom to do what? Wear a bikini but not a niqab? Why are so many of us calling for a burqa ban? Strict decrees either way deny Muslim women autonomy and agency.

SOLIDARITY

If we are disinclined to say “I am Charlie Hebdo” because we do not want to identify with racist speech, we might consider saying “I am a war victim” to show our solidarity with all the people in the world being harmed by armed conflict.

AN ISLAMOPHOBIC CHECK LIST

Do you hold any views or attitudes like these?

  1. Seeing Islam as a single monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to new realities.
  2. Seeing Islam as separate and other–not having any aims or values in common with other cultures.
  3. Seeing Islam as inferior to the West–barbaric, irrational, sexist.
  4. Seeing Islam as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, engaged in ‘a clash of civilizations.’
  5. Seeing Islam as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
  6. Rejecting out of hand criticisms made of ‘the West’ by Muslims.
  7. Using hostility towards Islam to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
  8. Accepting anti-Muslim hostility as natural and normal.

You may want to check your views and think again. Those listed have been identified as particularly damaging by the Runnymede Trust, a British anti-racist research institute.

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