Shree Paradkar: A four-year study has mapped out ‘The Canadian Islamophobia Industry’

Of note. Zine’s creation of a voting guide for Muslim voters in 2019 generated considerable controversy:

What connects a book titled “How Baby Boomers, Immigrants and Islam Screwed My Generation”, a tweet with two women wearing sweatshirts labelled “Deus Vult”, a meme of a Trojan horse labelled “Infiltrating From Within” and public warnings about the “Great Replacement”?

It’s not merely that a thread of Islamophobia weaves through them all. It’s that the thread is supported by a well-funded and orchestrated matrix, as uncovered by a new report titled “The Canadian Islamophobia Industry: Mapping Islamophobia’s ecosystem in the Great White North.”

Wilfrid Laurier professor Jasmin Zine likens the four years she and a group of graduates spent investigating the networks of hate and bigotry that purvey Islamophobia to playing whack-a-mole.

“We went down hundreds of rabbit holes investigating so many different Islamophobic groups and organizations and individuals, and one led to another,” she said this week at a discussion of her report at the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.

Islamophobia has had an insidious and deadly impact in Canada, leading, in just one example, to the murder of Muslims in Quebec City in 2017 and in London, Ont., in 2021.

Zine is an expert on the topic; the author of a recent book titled “Under Siege: Islamophobia and the 9/11 Generation” and a consultant on the subject for international human rights agencies such as The Council of Europe and the UNESCO.

Her recently released 240-page report based on a four-year study unveils an ecosystem that comprises media outlets and Islamophobia influencers, white nationalist groups, fringe-right pro-Israel groups, self-professed “Muslim dissidents,” think-tanks and their designated security experts, and the donors who fund their campaigns.

While studies such as “Hijacked by Hate” or “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” and the book “The Islamophobia Industry” have shown the co-ordinated and monetized nature of Islamophobia in the United States, Zine’s report is the first to show the links between various actors in Canada that target and vilify Islam and Muslims here. It adds urgency to act on the recommendations of the Summit on Islamophobia last July.

“The report highlights, first of all, the breadth and depth of the problem,” Barbara Perry, a leading Canadian expert on white extremism, told the Star. “Beyond that, however, it uncovers the ways in which the white supremacist/Islamophobic networks draw from both the fringe and the mainstream.”

Perry, who was not involved in the development of the report, called it “an incredibly important piece of work,” coming at a time when the public’s attention is diverted from Islamophobia due to the surge in anti-authority activism, such as that seen in the so-called Freedom Convoy.

Discussions about Islam often surface in the aftermath of violence — whether by those in the name of Islam or by those in the name of Christianity and whiteness.

But hate simmers in the background the rest of the time, gaining steam among the 300 or so hate groups that have blossomed across the country like poisonous mushrooms. Propagations of an us-versus-them rhetoric show up in memes, in anti-Trudeau conspiracy theories and in connection to Muslim women wearing hijabs, niqabs and burqas.

Crusader imagery is a popular symbol for these groups. A photo of Canadian Islamophobia influencers Faith Goldy and Lauren Southern wearing hoodies with the term “Deus vult,” Latin for “God willing” is one example. Deus vult was a rallying cry against Muslims during the First Crusade. “Reviving the tropes of this centuries-old battle, they invoke moral panic about Muslims and ignite Islamophobic fears and fantasies,” Zine writes.

Repeatedly circulating the idea of Islam as an existential threat primes people to accept blatantly anti-Muslim policies, including heightened surveillance of Muslims in the name of “counter terrorism.” And a law to ban head coverings by Muslim women, as Quebec did, under the guise of banning all items of overt religiosity.

In 2017, Southern went to the Mediterranean Sea to support the racist, xenophobic Defend Europe campaign and procured a 250-foot boat to stop NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders from conducting search-and-rescue missions to aid migrants in distress. While she and the motley crew ultimately failed to stop migrant ships, they earned credibility in racist movements that included a thumbs up from a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke.

This is but one example of the transnational reach of an ideology where tropes about deceptive and dangerous “Muslim invaders” and an oncoming “jihad” against the Western world intersect with xenophobia about migrants and fears of “white replacement”. The replacement theory views policies that welcome immigrants of non-European backgrounds as being part of a plot to push out the political power and culture of white people.

Three years prior, anti-Muslim blogger Kevin Johnston called Mississauga “ground zero for the entire Islamic invasion of the country” as he ran a failed campaign for mayor of the city. It was on a YouTube video since taken down for violating hate-speech guidelines.

To this matrix of bad faith players, Zine adds the category of “Muslim dissidents” and “ex-Muslims” — who she can occupy a central role in the Islamophobia industry and sometimes publish pieces in mainstream Canadian media.

While debates within communities are normal and common, some of these individuals are not mere enablers. “Bolstered by their ‘insider’ status, they act as instigators and propagators of anti-Islamic narratives as well as validating and authorizing the circulation of these tropes,” Zine writes.

As the Iranian-American author Hamid Dabashi once wrote, “There is no longer any need for ‘expert knowledge’ when you can hear the facts from the horse’s mouth.”

Zine points out the writer Raheel Raza. Days after a Canadian-born Muslim man shot dead Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the Ottawa war memorial in 2014, Raza wrote a blog saying “Canada is under attack” in which she recommended Canada “close all mosques for three months to have intense scrutiny on the Imams and their sermons in the past 3 months” and put “a moratorium on immigration from Muslim countries for a set period till matters here settle down.”

The writer Salim Mansur is another example Zine points to among the seven profiles of dissidents and ex-Muslims in the report. Mansur, a columnist at Rebel Media and the Toronto Sun, once wrote “Muslims, in general, are a ‘third-world’ people whose understanding and practice of Islam remain fixed in their pre-modern cultures.”

These “voices of dissent” claim Islam needs reforming.

But Islamophobia keeps Muslims on the defensive, steals their ability to challenge hierarchies or to have frank internal critiques that the dissidents say are needed.

Zine draws connections between dissidents and their roles at anti-Muslim think-tanks.

For instance, American reports such as Hijacked by Hate or Countering the Islamophobia Industry by The Carter Centre found the Gatestone Institute is one of the biggest funders of the Islamophobia industry in the U.S. It was founded by Nina Rosenwald, who is heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune and has been dubbed the “sugar mama” of Anti-Muslim hate there.

“We can’t actually track the money trail in Canada in the way that they can in the United States by using tax records,” Zine says.

Certain connections still become visible. Raza and Mansur were distinguished fellows with the Gatestone Institute, the report says.

Writes Zine: “The Muslim community and its allies must work to engender social movements and to enact dedicated advocacy and powerful lobbies to combat the formidable and lucrative business of Islamophobia.”

Source: Shree Paradkar: A four-year study has mapped out ‘The Canadian Islamophobia Industry’

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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