My comment is in response to your article, published on April 3rd, “Bennett booted from Tory leadership for racially charged tweets.”
There has been much media coverage of Bennett’s tweets and the reaction that followed. My intention is not to feed the debate further, but to clarify some misused words in recent weeks.
We, at the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, were pleased to see the premier condemn the controversial messages, and to see that the proper procedures were followed in investigating and subsequently acting on the offensive tweets.
Messages referring to Muslim women and children as potential “trolls” not worthy of public trust are unacceptable in a democratic, free society, where we strive towards the protection of human dignity and respect for all community members.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Muslim women and children are as deserving of our trust as any other resident of the province.
The local media coverage, not limited to The Telegram, has been referring to Bennett’s tweets as “racially charged.”
It is important to note that the repeated references to race were misplaced — in this instance, the tweets were discriminatory and were an example of Islamophobic language (irrational mistrust and fear of Muslims).
Muslims are not a race — there are Muslims of all races, just as there are Christians of all races.
To be Muslim is to belong to the religion of Islam, but a Muslim can be African American, Asian, Caucasian and so forth.
Misused terminology confusing race and ethnic origin with religion has happened before.
In a Telegram commentary in January 2010, Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms erroneously used the words “racial profiling” when calling for a segregationist security process in Canada’s airports that would see the creation of dual security lines, one for non-
Muslims and another for Muslims, as his idea for preventing future terrorist attacks.
Simms’ proposal was discriminatory on the ground of religion, but it had little to do with race.
Discrimination can encompass religion, ethnic origin, sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and 12 other prohibited grounds of discrimination, as listed in the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act recognizes that every individual in our province is free and equal in dignity and rights, regardless of differences such as race, religion or ethnic origin.
It is up to every one of us to ensure that human rights are respected and protected in Newfoundland and Labrador.
A respectful, well-informed and dignified exchange of ideas is all it takes for that to happen.
Referring to issues by precise and clear vocabulary ensures that we can be well-informed when something is discriminatory or simply in poor taste. Newfoundland and Labrador media play an integral role in this matter.
Remzi Cej, Chair,
Newfoundland and Labrador
Human Rights Commission