The recent passing of Bill C-51 in Canada has raised a lot of questions and concerns. The Bill is an anti-terrorism act of 2015, which gives enforcement officials authority to detain anyone if they suspect terrorist activities. In the article, “Muslim Groups’ Troubled’ by Stephen Harper’s Mosque Remark,” Laura Payton talks about the concerns that were raised regarding the recent comments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who implicated that Canadian mosques are venues where terrorism is advocated and promoted.
The article highlights the comment made by Harper while he spoke about the anti-terror Bill. Harper declared “It doesn’t matter what the age of the person is, or whether they’re in a basement, or whether they’re in a mosque or somewhere else”(Payton, 2015). When he was asked to distinguish the difference between radicalization and teens messing around in their basements, Harper specifically included mosques in his response. Critics and members of the Muslim community were not happy with his comments and didn’t understand why he had to explicitly point out activities in mosques.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers’ Association released a statement stating that they weren’t happy with Harper’s assumptions’ that mosques are promoting terrorism. Amira Elghawaby, human rights coordinator for NCCM also believes that Harper’s comment led to a bad image of Muslims in the minds of Canadians. Tom Mulcair, NDP leader also expressed that Harper’s comments were a form of Islamphobia, which is unacceptable and completely irresponsible of the prime Minister to target mosques in his remark.
I believe that the article itself is interesting because it brings in a lot of questions that are being raised about Bill C-51 and Harper’s future plans to decrease jihadist activities. The famous thinker and critic, Edward Said described, “Orientalism, as a framework that we use to understand the unfamiliar and the strange; to make the peoples of the Middle East appear different and threatening”(Orientalism). That image remains fixed in the Western intellect and is supported by Harper’s comment because Harper irrationally included the mosques in his remark in front of media. Wayne Easter, member of Liberal party also believes that Harper is sending out a message to “Be afraid, be very afraid”(Payton, 2015). Though, I believe that Harper didn’t intend to offend the Muslim community, his comments raise the question; was Bill C-51 specifically created for the Canadian Muslim community. Was the comment a slip of tongue or did he purposely point out the mosques in his comments.
The concerns the article delves on are completely understandable and significant. The Prime Minister inconsiderably targeted the Muslims, which is disrespectful and the Muslim community deserves an apology. This may lead to an increase in Islamphobia and generate concerns around mosques and religious Muslim activities. Harper was discriminative in his statement and utterly offensive towards the Muslim community of Canada. By categorically signifying mosques when speaking of terrorism he raises questions about the backstory of Bill C-15.