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B’nai Brith to Senate Committee: Use IHRA as Model to Combat Anti-Muslim Hate

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(Senate of Canada)

Feb. 14, 2023
OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada is urging the creation of a definition of anti-Muslim hatred based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism framework.

In testimony before a Senate committee studying anti-Muslim hate, two senior representatives from B’nai Brith Canada separately recommended approaches the Government can take to combat anti-Muslim hate modelled on the Jewish community’s efforts to combat antisemitism.

Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer, and David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel, told the committee Monday evening that an anti-Muslim hate definition should protect the rights of individual Muslims while allowing for broader discussions or critiques about certain manifestations of the Islamic faith. Mostyn and Matas also informed the committee of attempts by radical activists to smear mainstream Jewish groups as “Islamophobic” for condemning antisemitism.

“We’ve learned from combating antisemitism that it is essential to have a clear definition of what constitutes hate that targets Jewish people,” Mostyn said after the committee session. “The IHRA definition is an example of an effective, clear and highly useful tool to identify antisemitism. We have seen a reduction in antisemitism in jurisdictions where the IHRA definition has been adopted and we are confident a similar definition to identify anti-Muslim bigotry can produce similar results.”

During his testimony, Mostyn told the committee that B’nai Brith was motivated to volunteer testimony because of the organization’s devotion to protecting human rights for all.

“We feel that, given our experience and expertise, we can meaningfully assist today’s study in its desire to nurture a welcoming and safe Canada for all its Muslim citizens,” the committee heard from Mostyn.

Matas told the committee: “If we look at the IHRA definition of antisemitism, what we see is a general statement of what antisemitism is, what antisemitism is not and some examples, offered as guides. This manner of presentation we suggest is a useful template for Islamophobia. We would suggest a definition of Islamophobia which identifies the term with anti-Muslim hatred, which provides examples of what the phrase does not prevent, for example, reasoned criticism of various interpretations of Islam, and which provides examples of what this phrase includes, Islamophobia in its literal sense being one of them.”

Matas was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2008. Both Mostyn and Matas are recognized widely as leading human-rights advocates.

B’nai Brith actually had a delegation of three at the Senate testimony. Richard Robertson, Manager of Research, was also on hand.