The international scare of Muslims has found its way to Canada as the Canadian administration promotes “tough-on-terrorism” laws as weapons against “Islamic extremism.” The latest set of “anti-terror” legislation is Bill C-51, a sweeping batch of laws that, if passed, will change Canadian national security forever. Watchdogs from both inside and outside of the government have voiced their disdain for intrusive security laws (not just Bill C-51) that criminalize certain kinds of online speech, expands the powers of policing/spying agencies, and lowers the threshold for authorities to make preventive arrests. For example, it used to be that an officer can arrest someone only if he or she thinks that an individual “will commit” a criminal act. Bill C-51 proposes that the word “will” be turned into “may.” Recent legislation written to expand the powers and mandates of security agencies are full of such ambiguities.
As long as nation states and governments have existed, rulers have always looked to increase their control over the populations they rule. Democracies are supposed to contain checks and balances that keep such power-grabs at bay. If these self-correcting mechanisms are eroded, then the very fabric of a society will become frayed. This is what’s happening right now in much of the post-9/11 Western world. Muslims should be paying close attention to such developments because many administrations have promoted strict security laws by antagonizing Muslim communities in a big way. For instance, in a remark after the tabling of Bill C-51, Prime Minister Stephen Harper misspoke and cited that mosques are breeding ground for radicalization and homegrown terrorism. Not only was this shocking for the Muslim community in Canada, but also taken negatively by other leading political activists in Canada.
The truth is that Muslims are a rich community who are an incredible asset in Canada. However, Muslims are also, globally speaking, the most common victims accused of terrorism, and now that message has come home. Canadian Muslims should be incorporated into actionable solutions carried out by officials. This needs to be done soon, and, given the state of Canadian politics; Muslims have to wake up and organize in order to push our elected officials to do what is right. No community in Canada should be singled out or be antagonized by the state, but rather, the Canadian administration should work to capitalize on what the world envies us for… being a diverse nation that can live in peace, harmony and equality among all.