Nakua: Tackling Islamophobia begins by rebuilding trust with the Muslim community

Not sure how “deeply planned” policies and practices that result in Islamophobia and other forms of racial or religious discrimination were, although there is clearly an anti-Islam cottage industry. And of course, compared to the earlier incidents cited, there has been a recognition and shift towards addressing right wing extremism.

One needs to be careful labelling every example of differential outcomes or treatment as automatically racist. One needs to look at the particulars and the reasoning and evidence before making that judgement. Differences signal potential racism and discrimination that need to be probed and understood:

The first anniversary of the killing of four members of the Afzaal family in London, Ont., passed with marches and vigils and a commitment to fight Islamophobia. Last winter, another grim anniversary of the Quebec City mosque massacre was commemorated in a similar manner. Both left an indelible imprint on the Muslim community across the country.

One glaring similarity in the two tragedies is the preference to identify and restrict the solutions towards Islamophobia through a narrow and ineffective focus on hate crimes. However, to truly address Islamophobia, we need to look at the deep systemic racism that exists in Canada.

Islamophobia is a complex phenomenon. It must be seen through the larger context of systemic racism such as anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism and anti-migrant discrimination. Fundamentally, Islamophobia is an outcome of the racialization of Muslims as an “other” — mostly through targeting the expression of their “Muslimness.”

Islamophobia has been on the rise since 9/11. Under the “war on terror” and the anti-radicalization framework, Muslims were securitized within public, political and media discourses. These policies stigmatized Muslims and made it easy to propagate dangerous Islamophobic discourses. This normalization process rose to a crescendo around 2011 when it moved from the fringe towards the centre as its political utility became evident.

One example of systemic Islamophobia was exposed in two recent reports that examined the targeting of Muslim-led charities by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The first report, by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), traced systemic biases in Canada’s anti-terrorism financing and anti-radicalization regimes.

The second, titled Under Layered Suspicion, examined three audit reports of six revoked charities and identified a number of systemic biases. These included casting Muslims and their lifestyles and activities as inherently foreign or in the role of the outsider.

These reports expose one of the major failures of the anti-terror policies. The concentration of counter-terrorism resources was not based on a comparative risk analysis. There had been neither a substantial assessment of other potential threats of terrorism nor an informed system-wide decision to proceed on this basis.

The staging for these audits could be traced to a 2015 hearing by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence where Lorenzo Vidino, an American legal scholar with connections to numerous anti-Muslim think tanks in the United States and Europe was a key witness. A Georgetown University report says Vindino’s research “promotes conspiracy theoriesabout the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and the United States.” He has also openly advocated for the delegitimization of Muslim community organizations by asking for an “Al Capone law-enforcement approach” to shut them down on tax breaches. By doing this, he used a common Islamophobic allegation that mainstream Muslim organizations are influenced by foreign entities such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another example is the reasonable accommodation debate in the province of Quebec. The Bouchard-Taylor Commission, televised across the province, soon became a platform to normalize hate and welcomed Islamophobia to the public square. Successive governments in Quebec became obsessed with “religious symbols in the public sphere,” introducing four bills within 10 years, including Bill 21. Two hundred and fifty academics co-signed an open letter in Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper calling that law discriminatory.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is challenging Bill 21 in court because in its assessment the legislation unfairly targets people who express their faith through what they wear. Even Charles Taylor, co-author of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission report, explained that Bill 21 must be understood “in the context of a society full of Islamophobia.”

However, the Quebec government has shown a great apathy towards tackling Islamophobia and instead has pursued a strategy to stifle any meaningful criticism.

These examples demonstrate the reality that Islamophobia is more than hate crimes. It is the result of deeply planned and developed practices that create and proliferate systemic racism. It will require considerable ingenuity, as well as political will, to change things.

Tackling Islamophobia begins by rebuilding trust with the Muslim community. This starts with strong government leadership to review the anti-terrorism laws and policies, and replace them with new fit-for-purpose alternatives.

The government must also invest resources to address systemic institutional Islamophobia that we are witnessing in the CRA, the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP and CSIS, among other government agencies. The CRA should suspend the review and analysis division (RAD) of the charities directorate until the federal government revises its risk-based assessment model and reforms its anti-terrorism laws.

More immediately, the minister of national revenue should declare a moratorium on the targeted audit of Muslim charities by RAD until the review has concluded.

The recent announcement by the federal government that it would establish a special representative on combating islamophobia is a good start. However, producing statistics and narratives of Islamophobia will not solve it. We need to address it directly from a systemic perspective. It should be part of a federal office with clear mandate and sufficient resources to implement a purposeful agenda to correct past wrongs, and to compel us as a society to imagine a new norm that is more inclusive and equitable.

The ugly legacy of Islamophobia should never be allowed to persist. This starts by recognizing that Islamophobia is more just hate crimes.

Source: Tackling Islamophobia begins by rebuilding trust with the Muslim community

Calls to combat Islamophobia prominent in record-setting June for federal advocacy

Of note. Reflects the anniversary of the London killings:

Representatives of Canada’s Muslim population were on Parliament Hill in June calling on Ottawa to do more to combat Islamophobia during an advocacy event held on the anniversary of the fatal attack against an Ontario Muslim family.

“That attack forever changed the way that Muslims view their relationships with Canada and the country as a whole, and so we noticed a need for more,” said Fatema Abdalla, the communications coordinator with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). “We placed our call for more to be done against systemic Islamophobia, and we’ve been calling for that for many years, but there’s so much more that needs to be done.”

The NCCM led the way in federal lobbying in June, filing 64 communication reports for the month. This was more than twice the number of communication reports contributed by other leading advocacy groups during the month, which included the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), which filed 29 reports, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which filed 26.

All but three of the NCCM’s communication reports for last month were for activity on June 6, when the organization’s representatives were on the Hill for a federal advocacy day.

Communities across Ontario held marches and vigils on June 6 to commemorate the lives of a Muslim family killed on the same date last year in London, Ont., On June 6, 2021, Yumna Afzaal, 15, her mother Madiha Salman, 44, father Salman Afzaal, 46, and her grandmother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed when a vehicle jumped a curb while they were out for a Sunday walk. Police believe the driver targeted the family because of their Muslim faith.

The youngest son, who family members have asked not to be named, was injured but survived.

Abdalla told The Hill Times that this wasn’t the only attack of its kind in Canada, and referred to the terrorist attack on Jan. 29, 2017, where 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six worshipers at a mosque in Québec City.

To help protect Canada’s Muslim population, the NCCM’s representatives are pushing for the Liberal government to develop a national action plan to combat Islamophobia. The plan should include a national support fund intended to help survivors of hate-motivated crimes, and funding to improve security at mosques, according to Abdalla. NCCM members would also like the federal government to create a provision in the criminal code that mandates a special process to deal with hate crimes, including stiffer penalties for violent offenders and a rehabilitation path for specific and relevant offenders.

NCCM representatives met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.), Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), and nine other federal ministers during the advocacy event on the Hill. The NCCM is represented on the federal lobbyists’ registry by CEO Mustafa Farooq and assistant advocacy officer Amar Abdisamed.

During the advocacy day, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen (York South-Weston, Ont.) announced that Ottawa has begun the hiring process to find a Special Representative on Combating Islamophobia. This announcement fulfilled a Liberal government commitment made in January, according to an NCCM press release from June 27.

Islamophobia is a daily reality for far too many Muslim communities in Canada and around the world, according to Daniele Medlej, the director of communications in Hussen’s office, in an emailed statement to The Hill Times on July 20.

“From the Quebec Mosque shooting to the London attack just last year, we are reminded of the devastating consequences Islamophobia can have,” said Medlej in the email.

Medlej did not provide details on when the federal government is hoping to have filled the role of Special Representative.

In the email, Medlej said the Special Representative will serve as “a champion, advisor, expert and representative” to the Liberal government, and will collaborate with domestic partners, institutions and stakeholders to support Canada’s efforts to combat Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hate, systemic racism, racial discrimination and religious intolerance.

The Liberal government is committed to getting the appointment of the Special Representative right, and will share more details as they become available, she added.

“[The Special Representative] will impact Canada’s fight against Islamophobia by enhancing our efforts, addressing barriers faced by the community, and promoting awareness of the diverse and intersectional identities of Muslims in Canada,” said Medlej in the emailed statement. “Our government stands with, and continues to support, Muslim communities across Canada. We unequivocally condemn Islamophobia, hate and discrimination of any kind.”

Also on June 6, the NCCM welcomed an announcement by Liberal MP Salma Zahid (Scarborough Centre, Ont.), who said she plans to begin public consultations on a private member’s bill that would aim to hold intelligence and justice officials accountable for breaches of the “duty of candour” they have towards the Federal Court. The duty of candour refers to the responsibility that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) officials and Department of Justice lawyers have to present a judge with all the relevant facts, including information that may sway the judge against their request.

Zahid’s announcement followed complaints she has received from her constituents and from racialized Canadians in general about being unfairly targeted by CSIS, as previously reported in The Hill Times.

The NCCM argued in the June 27 press release that violations of the duty of candour by intelligence officials has caused serious and long-term harm to marginalized communities.

June was a record-breaking month for federal lobbying, with 2,587 communication reports in total posted for that month, according to a search of the federal lobbyists’ registry on July 21. June had the highest total of communication reports for that month since at least 2009, which is the earliest that online records are available for June. The previous record for June was 2,468 communication reports filed in June 2021.

Source: Calls to combat Islamophobia prominent in record-setting June for federal advocacy

Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Unfortunately true, as recent history illustrates, whether Rwanda, China in Xinjiang, or as Russia is trying to do in Ukraine:

As the images of mass graves and murdered civilians in Ukraine flash across our screen, we think of those who commit genocide as pure evil.

But a man who has dedicated his life to fighting the bigotry that causes genocide and has discovered more than 3,100 execution sites and interviewed more than 7,400 victims around the world knows better.

“A human being has the capacity to heal people, to save people, but also the capacity to do the worst crimes,” Father Patrick Desbois said. “The first thing to accept is that genocide is inside humanity.”

Desbois, an author and founder of Yahad-In Unum (Together In One), a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering genocidal practices, spoke Monday night inside the Arizona Ballroom of the Memorial Union as part of Genocide Awareness Week, put on by Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Desbois, who has received several awards for his work documenting the Holocaust, including the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, said the perpetrators of genocide often are ordinary people who become embroiled in extraordinary situations.

He cited the case of Sabrina Harmon, a former U.S. Army reservist who was convicted of war crimes for her involvement in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

“I always say to my students (at Georgetown University) that I’m sure she was a normal girl,” Desbois said. “I’m sure she was not a monster. Genocide is not in a hell place away from everything. It’s not true.”

Genocide often is the result, Desbois said, of propaganda feeding brainwashed minds. It was that way in Nazi Germany, in Angola in the 1970s, in Sudan and in Ukraine, where Russian president Vladimir Putin justified his country’s invasion with the propaganda that Ukraine is “openly pro-Nazi.”

“Hitler never missed people to do the job,” Desbois said. “There is no country where Hitler said, ‘Oh, nobody wants to do the job for killings. He found people to do everything, to dig the mass graves, to fill the mass graves, and even if Jews are not dead, they are buried alive, to take the belongings and sell them by auction, etc. etc.

“Because when you brainwash people, when you make propaganda to designate a target, you wake up the criminals. And you find clients for everything … Why are young soldiers coming from Russa doing awful things in public, under cameras from CNN? Why can Putin deny it every day?

“Propaganda is still strong. Propaganda has a capacity to whitewash the brain. And when people are brainwashed, any violence is possible … Everybody can be a victim. Everybody can be a killer. It depends where you are.”

Desbois said propaganda – and the resulting Neo-Nazi movement — is in part responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, including the United States. According to FBI statistics in 2020, Jews living in America are the target of 58% of all religiously motivated hate crimes.

Desbois said that when he posts something about the Holocaust on his Facebook page, “there’s always somebody who denies it, for any reason.”

“I will never forget the first time I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I took a cab from the airport and had an Arab driver. I gave the address, and he brought me to the museum. After I went to pay, he told me, ‘You go to a place which shows the genocide that never existed.’”

That attitude, Desbois said, is why it’s important to teach high school and college students about the Holocaust. Already, he said, the Holocaust is not taught in schools in Mexico, Asia, China, India, Russia, most African countries and most Arab countries.

“I see year after year students (at Georgetown) know nothing about the Holocaust,” Desbois said. And the young generation, they will have very few chances to meet a (Holocaust) survivor. They will meet people who say, ‘Ha, it never existed. It’s a Jewish trick to make money to build Israel.’

“So, it’s a strong responsibility to teach, to train a generation of leaders and to do it so that they have the capacity to resist the huge movement of hate.”

Holocaust by Bullets,” a program and exhibit by Yahad-In Unum, can be seen in the Hayden Library through April 17. Members of the ASU community can access the free exhibit any time during library hours. Non-ASU community members can access the exhibit during docent-led tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays.

Source: Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

International efforts to combat Islamophobia require more than lip service

Like so many UN resolutions…

Greater failure is with respect to lack of meaningful action on China and its oppression of the Uyghurs:

Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. 

Lauded by some, criticized by others, it remains to be seen whether such a move will actually have an impact on the millions of people worldwide who face state-sanctioned discrimination, oppression, and genocide. 

“Today UN has finally recognized the grave challenge confronting the world: of Islamophobia, respect for religious symbols & practices & of curtailing systematic hate speech & discrimination against Muslims. Next challenge is to ensure implementation of this landmark resolution,” tweeted Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister.

The resolution calls on the international community — governments, civil society, the private sector and faith-based-organizations — “to organize and support various high-visibility events aimed at effectively increasing awareness of all levels about curbing Islamophobia.”

The date of the annual commemoration holds significance as the tragic anniversary of the rampage on two mosques in Christchurch, N.Z. in 2019. The perpetrator was a far-right terrorist and white supremacist who livestreamed the first of his two mass shootings on Facebook. He killed a total of 51 worshippers.

The brutality of those attacks was a clear example of the devastating consequences of Islamophobia, a phenomenon that has reached “epidemic proportions,” according to a 2021 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

“Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and other horrific acts of terrorism purportedly carried out in the name of Islam, institutional suspicion of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim has escalated to epidemic proportions,” reads the report’s introduction. “Numerous States — along with regional and international bodies — have responded to security threats by adopting measures that disproportionately target Muslims and define Muslims as both high-risk and at risk of radicalization.”

Irrational fear of Muslims writ large has been used as an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties around the world, provide unequal treatment to Muslim migrants and refugees, as well as utilized as a pretext to implement genocidal policies in various places including in China and in Myanmar. In India, home to the second largest population of Muslims in the world, the situation has become dire.

In a recent TIME magazine article titled “Is India headed for an anti-Muslim genocide?” Debasish Roy Chowdhury, co-author of “To Kill A Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism,” provided a bleak assessment.

“Indian social media today is filled with videos of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism calling for the lynching of Muslims — an act so common that it hardly makes news anymore. High-profile Hindu supremacists are seldom booked for hate speech. Muslims routinely face random attacks for such ‘crimes’ as transporting cattle or being in the company of Hindu women. Sometimes, the provocation is simply that somebody is visibly Muslim. As [President Narendra] Modi himself has told election rallies, people ‘creating violence’ can be ‘identified by their clothes.’”

In February, schools in a state controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), banned female students from wearing hijabs. This followed the passage of what Human Rights Watch described as “a slew of laws and policies that systematically discriminate against religious minorities.” Protesters have been killed. 

Not surprising then that the Indian government opposed the UN resolution on Islamophobia. France, also accused of violating the human rights of its Muslim population, similarly pushed back.

“Time and again we have seen the French authorities use the vague and ill-defined concept of ‘radicalization’ or ‘radical Islam’ to justify the imposition of measures without valid grounds, which risks leading to discrimination in its application against Muslims and other minority groups,” said a spokesperson with Amnesty International last March. 

If an international day to combat Islamophobia is to have any meaning, it will require governments around the world to hold each other accountable.

Source: International efforts to combat Islamophobia require more than lip service

Saunders: The Christchurch massacre may have had a Canadian connection – but there’s a reason you may not know about it [Rebel Media]

Of note:

Three years ago this week, a young man drove to a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers and, strolling through them while firing an arsenal of military-style weapons at worshippers, killed 51 women and men. In the midst of the massacre, he posted an online manifesto that described the murders as acts of racially motivated terrorism intended to stop immigration, using phrases and ideas borrowed from a small circle of extreme-right and white-supremacist publications.

The young man – who we are not naming, in following New Zealand convention – had learned these ideas over a period of months. And one of the apparent sources of those ideas was a Canadian fringe-media outlet – something you may not know, as a result of that outlet’s determined efforts to use the courts to prevent you from reading about it in this newspaper and elsewhere.

Between January of 2017 – around the time he first “had a terrorist attack in mind” – and August of that year, when he moved from his native Australia to New Zealand to begin actively planning the attack, the future murderer spent months reading far-right literature and communicating with people and organizations that had inspired him. By the end of that summer, he possessed “a fully developed terrorist ideology.” Those were the conclusions of a detailed forensic report on the massacre published by the New Zealand Parliament in November, 2020, after the young man had been imprisoned for life on murder and terrorism charges.

We now have a sense of what ideas might have inspired him during those eight formative months. The investigation found that in August and September of 2017, while he was making active plans for the rampage, he made a series of donations to a small circle of publications and organizations. The recipients of his donations, all on the extreme right, had all published or promoted a similar set of then-obscure racially oriented ideas.

One of those organizations was Rebel Media, the Canadian right-wing publisher known for online video sites such as Rebel News. On September 15, 2017, the future terrorist made a donation of $106.68 from his personal bank account to Rebel News Network Ltd. of Canada, using PayPal. Around the same time, he made donations to organizations such as the neo-Nazi publisher Daily Stormer and the white-supremacist organization Generation Identity. It is reasonable to conclude that he felt influenced by those organizations, because they were among the few places in the world then publishing and publicizing the collection of ideas that would be at the core of his manifesto.

Canadians may not be aware of this connection between the Christchurch massacre and their country’s fringe media – and that’s because Ezra Levant, the publisher of Rebel Media, went to great lengths to ensure that it stayed out of the press. Around the time that the New Zealand parliamentary report became public, Mr. Levant launched a series of libel suits against journalists who had mentioned his organization’s possible influence on terrorists and violent individuals and groups. That included a suit against the author of this column for having mentioned the terrorist’s donation to Rebel Media on Twitter, after it appeared in the New Zealand report.

None of these lawsuits have been successful. In 2021, three of them were thrown out by Ontario judges, who agreed with the defendants that the suits were simply attempts to silence the media (or, in legal terms, “strategic lawsuits against public participation”). This January, a judge ruled that, in two suits, Mr. Levant and Rebel Media were “using litigation to silence critics” and ordered the outlet to pay more than $250,000 in costs. In late 2021, Rebel Media dropped its suit against me, too, with an agreement not to pursue its defamation claim against me with respect to my tweets or their contents, and not to pursue any claims against me relating to them.

What Rebel Media appears to have been trying to keep out of the public eye – and, to a large extent, successfully so – was any suggestion that their content could have influenced terrorists and violent figures in several countries.

In preparing my defence around the lawsuit, I found a string of articles and videos that were published on Rebel Media’s sites during those key months when the terrorist was gathering influences, shortly before he made his donation to the Canadian organization. Most have been subsequently deleted from their sites, but can be found on internet archives.

Central to many of those articles is Martin Sellner, an Austrian extreme-right figure who was arrested in 2006 for painting swastikas on synagogues and who, in the late 2010s, made declarations about the “Jewish question” and funded attacks on refugee ships using his extreme-right organization Generation Identity. He has popularized a racial conspiracy theory known as “the Great Replacement,” which holds that people in Western countries from racial or religious minorities are not simply fellow citizens, but the subjects of a plot to “replace” white and Christian people. He is also known for promoting the concept of “white genocide,” which holds that the immigration of racial minorities is a form of extermination.

The Christchurch terrorist was an admitted admirer of Mr. Sellner’s. He corresponded with the extremist repeatedly during those formative months of 2017, and he titled his manifesto “The Great Replacement,” filling it with Mr. Sellner’s quotes and concepts, including “white genocide.” The murderer’s donations appear to have all been directed to Mr. Sellner’s organizations or those that regularly published and advocated his ideas.

That includes Rebel Media. On June 22, 2016, Rebel Media published a post headlined, “Leader of Generation Identity Austria: We want to stop what we call the Great Replacement,” devoted to an adulatory video interview between a Rebel staffer and Mr. Sellner. The post remained visible until at least March of 2019, and carried the tagline, “Martin Sellner of the Austrian chapter of Generation Identity joined me to talk about Europe’s disastrous immigration policies, and why more people like him are fighting back.” Rebel Media’s main Twitter account promoted it with the line, “We want to stop the Great Replacement,” and a photo of Mr. Sellner with one of their staff.

Journalists have also identified at least one other Rebel interview with Mr. Sellner(which has since been deleted), as well as two other instances of posts that appeared during this period in which Rebel hosts reportedly express advocacy for Mr. Sellner. These were among the few places in the world, aside from the Daily Stormer and Mr. Sellner’s own sites, where his ideas could be found in any detail during this period.

The concept of “white genocide,” central to the terrorist’s manifesto, featured prominently on Rebel Media platforms during the time the young man was planning his terrorist attack. On May 31, 2017, Rebel published a much-discussed article, also later deleted, titled “White genocide in Canada?” which asked whether “diversity is just code for population replacement.” Another, published in December, 2016, claimed that a CBC show “celebrates white genocide.” During 2018, other Rebel posts and tweets promoted the “white genocide” concept.

I am not suggesting that this Canadian fringe-media site was responsible for, or approved of, the murderous violence of March 15, 2019; that is solely the responsibility of the man who committed the crimes. But it is quite reasonable to conclude that Rebel Media was an influence on his ideas during the time he was planning an attack, as were the people and concepts the outlet regularly and enthusiastically promoted during those years.

What does appear clear is that Mr. Levant and his colleagues at Rebel Media have devoted considerable effort and expense to ensuring that Canadians do not hear any discussion of their organization’s potential influence on people who commit horrible crimes in the name of baseless racial conspiracy theories.

While Rebel Media’s legal efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, they do mean that many Canadians have spent three years without hearing a word about what could be a Canadian connection to this, and other, atrocities. At a moment when the online publication of hateful fictions is having an increasingly damaging effect on the world, we need to be on guard against such attempts to silence the media.

Source: The Christchurch massacre may have had a Canadian connection – but there’s a reason you may not know about it

India concerned over elevating phobia against one religion to level of international day

Official speech reveals more than it tries to hide and ignore the background of anti-Muslim bias and hate in India that has increased under the Modi government. Theoretically, the case for pan religion and pan group anti-racism and discrimination is strong. But context matters, and the Indian Permanent Representative is not the one to make the case:

As the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution on Tuesday to proclaim March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia, India expressed concern over phobia against one religion being elevated to the level of an international day, saying there are growing contemporary forms of religiophobia, especially anti–Hindu, anti–Buddhist and anti–Sikh phobias.

The 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution, introduced by Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram under agenda item Culture of peace, to proclaim March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

The resolution, introduced by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was co–sponsored by Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mali, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Reacting to the adoption of the resolution, India’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti said in the General Assembly that India hopes the resolution adopted “does not set a precedent” which will lead to multiple resolutions on phobias based on selective religions and divide the United Nations into religious camps.

“Hinduism has more than 1.2 billion followers, Buddhism more than 535 million and Sikhism more than 30 million spread out around the world. It is time that we acknowledged the prevalence of religiophobia, rather than single out just one,” he said.

“It is important that the United Nations remains above such religious matters which may seek to divide us rather than bring us together on one platform of peace and harmony and treat the World as One Family,” he said.

Following the adoption of the draft resolution, Mr. Tirumurti said while India condemns all acts motivated by anti–semitism, Christianophobia or Islamophobia, such phobias are not restricted to Abrahamic religions only.

“In fact, there is clear evidence that over decades such religiophobias have, in fact, affected the followers of non–Abrahamic religions as well. These have contributed to the emergence of contemporary forms of religiophobia, especially anti–Hindu, anti–Buddhist and anti–Sikh phobias,” he said.

He noted that the Member States should not forget that in 2019, August 22 has already been proclaimed as the International Day commemorating the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, which is fully inclusive in nature.

“We even have an International Day of Tolerance observed on 16 November. We are not convinced that we need to elevate phobia against one religion to the level of an international day,” he said.

Mr. Tirumurti asserted that these contemporary forms of religiophobia can be witnessed in the increase in attacks on religious places of worship like gurudwaras, monasteries and temples or in the spreading of hatred and disinformation against non–Abrahamic religions in many countries.

He cited that several examples of these abound, including the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban, violation of gurudwara premises, massacre of Sikh pilgrims in gurudwara, attack on temples, glorification of breaking of idols in temples.

He said these contribute to the rise of contemporary forms of religiophobia against non–Abrahamic religions.

“It is in this context that we are concerned about elevating the phobia against one religion to the level of an international day, to the exclusion of all the others.

Celebration of a religion is one thing but to commemorate the combatting of hatred against one religion is quite another. In fact, this resolution may well end up downplaying the seriousness of phobias against all other religions,” Mr. Tirumurti said in his statement after the adoption of the resolution.

He said India is proud that pluralism is at the core of its existence.

“We firmly believe in equal protection and promotion of all religions and faith. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the word ‘pluralism’ finds no mention in the resolution and the sponsors have not found it fit to take on board our amendments to include the word “pluralism in the text for reasons best known to them”.

Mr. Tirumurti said as a pluralistic and democratic country that is home to almost all religions of the world, India has always welcomed, over the centuries, those persecuted around the world for their faith or belief.

“They have always found in India a safe haven shorn of persecution or discrimination. This is true whether they were Zoroastrians or Buddhists or Jews or people of any other faith,” he said.

Mr. Tirumurti expressed deep concern over the rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence directed against members of many religious communities in various parts of the world.

He emphasised that it is with deep concern that India views the growing manifestation of intolerance, discrimination or violence against followers of religions, including rising sectarian violence in some countries.

France’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere, speaking after Mr. Tirumurti, said that by creating an international day to combat Islamophobia, the resolution does not respond to the concern that “we all share to fight against all forms of discrimination”.

“Because they create division within the fight against religious intolerance by only selecting one religion to the exclusion of others without reference to the freedom to believe or to not believe,” he said.

He said society is made up of diversity, with individuals practising a variety of religions or not practising any at all.

“Must we expect the creation of days dedicated to each religion, to each degree of belief or non–belief. There may not be enough days in the year to satisfy all these demands,” Mr. de Riviere said.

He said the text of the resolution submitted on Tuesday did raise a number of difficulties with regard to the determination to fight against discrimination based on religion or belief.

“The term Islamophobia does not have any agreed definition in international law, contrary to the freedom of religion or belief,” he said, adding that the resolution is very ‘unsatisfactory’ as it stands and none of the proposals mooted by France were taken into consideration.

Source: India concerned over elevating phobia against one religion to level of international day

Quebec students feel there’s ‘no future’ for them due to religious symbols law, study suggests

Of note. Interviews, not a poll, selection bias likely at play, but nevertheless of note (article in Le Devoir below):

A new study looking into how university students feel about Quebec’s religious symbols law is painting a bleak picture, with many saying they’ve lost faith in the province and plan to leave.

The study, completed by researchers from two Montreal-based universities, asked post-secondary students, recent graduates and prospective students about their feelings on Bill 21.

The bill, also known as Quebec’s Laicity Act, became law in June 2019. It banned some civil servants, including teachers, police officers and government prosecutors, from wearing religious symbols at work within the province.

The study acknowledged the sample size is “relatively small” — 629 respondents, polled from Oct. 2020 through to Nov. 2021 — and has a “strong possibility of selection bias,” as those who feel more strongly about Bill 21 are more likely to have responded to the survey.

However, the authors noted that respondents were “relatively diverse” and attended both French and English institutions from across the province.

Only about 28 per cent of respondents said they wore some form of religious symbol.

“We were expecting a more balanced diversity of responses. We thought we would get more people in favour of the law,” said Elizabeth Elbourne, an associate professor of history at McGill and one of the researchers behind the study.

“There’s a really interesting generational gap. We were quite struck.”‘I have no future in Quebec’

Respondents in Elbourne’s study were invited to write-in additional comments. Many said they experienced increased racism since the law was introduced.

“I think that the bill — despite the fact that many people don’t mean it this way — in practice, can give permission to discriminate,” she said.

Over 34 per cent of respondents — including those who did not wear a religious symbol — reported experiencing increased discrimination since the law was passed. That number jumps to 56.5 per cent for those who do wear religious symbols.

“It used to happen to me occasionally. Now it happens almost every time I go out,” said one Université de Montréal student who wears a hijab.

One McGill education student described seeing Bill 21 invoked in the classroom while on a work placement during their studies.

“[I] watched students and the teacher ridicule a Muslim girl for wearing a hijab. The teacher said with Bill 21, you can’t dress like that,” the respondent wrote. “The girl was mortified and silent and just 11 years old.”

Even those outside of law and education, the fields most impacted by the law, reported feeling its effects.

“I have had some job interviews where I could immediately tell that the person lost interest in my application as soon as they saw me with my headscarf,” said a Concordia engineering student.

Moving provinces seen as ‘only solution’

As a result, 69.5 per cent of the students polled who wear a religious symbol said they were likely to leave the province for work.

“I didn’t even get a chance to start my career properly,” lamented one McGill education student who wears a hijab.

“The only solution I am strongly considering is to move to another province.”

Weeam Ben Rejeb is one of those considering the move. The McGill law student hoped to become a prosecutor, but would be banned due to her hijab.

“Even though I could practice in the private sector, it’s more about what this law is saying about me,” she said.

Ben Rejeb described Bill 21 as an “insult,” saying it suggested that she wouldn’t be able to do her job because of what she chose to wear.

“It’s extremely offensive,” she said. “We are essentially saying we’re not intelligent enough or impartial enough to be able to be neutral judges or teachers.”

Can’t work with ‘clean conscience’

They’re not the only ones considering leaving.

Forty-six per cent of the students who don’t wear religious symbols said they were also planning to leave Quebec due to Bill 21, saying they don’t want to participate in a system that discriminates against their colleagues.

“I refuse to work in a place where my peers cannot or will be punished for expressing themselves,” said one education student.

“I don’t feel that I can be a teacher here in Quebec and have a clean conscience while doing so,” wrote another.

“I chose Canada because I believed their laws aligned with my liberal beliefs,” wrote a Concordia law student who does not wear a religious symbol. “Now I am very disappointed and rethinking everything.”

Elbourne, the researcher who worked on the study, said she sees the potential exodus of students having a “serious impact” on the province’s education system.

“I think it’s going to make it harder to recruit teachers. And I also think, if we’re looking at the people leaving — are people from the outside going to want to come to Quebec?” Elbourne said.

As for how they feel about Quebec, 70.3 per cent of all respondents said they had a worse perception of the province since the law passed.

“I despise Quebec now,” wrote one McGill education student who wears a hijab. “A province which has absolutely no respect for me or my people to the point that they’d like to take my livelihood away deserves no love.”

“We’re racist af (as f–k),” wrote another.

Some support for Bill 21, survey shows

Not everyone was against the law, however. While the study notes that the “vast majority of people … were critical or divided” on Bill 21, there were also those who supported the measure.

One McGill education student hoped the bill would “encourage all faiths to embrace secular civic life” in Quebec.

“Hopefully we will see a new era in which students are able to attend school without being subjected to symbols of patriarchal religious oppression on their teachers,” they wrote.

One McGill law student said their family “escaped” a country that forced women to wear the hjiab. “We are free here,” they wrote.

A PhD student in education at McGill said they came from a conservative and religious part of the United States and would like to see something similar there.

“[Bill 21] is a wonderful step towards women’s liberation and freedom,” they wrote. “I wish my state would pass a similar bill.”

Ben Rejeb, the law student, acknowledged that Bill 21 does have widespread support in the province — especially in more rural regions — but questioned why that was.

“If all that you know about Muslims is what you see on TV … then it makes sense why you might have these fears,” she said.

Ben Rejeb said that with more education, she believes that most Quebecers would change their minds about supporting the law, though she fears many have already moved on.

“I feel like most of my peers, and Quebec society in general, has kind of forgotten about this and is going on with their lives and not really thinking about it because it doesn’t affect them personally,” she said.

“All of us who are living in Quebec right now are complicit in allowing this bill to continue to exist.”

Source: Quebec students feel there’s ‘no future’ for them due to religious symbols law, study suggests

Un grand nombre d’étudiants en enseignement et en droit projettent de faire leur vie hors de portée de la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État québécois — en commençant par ceux portant un signe religieux, mais pas seulement eux.

Près de trois ans après l’adoption de la loi 21, 73,9 % des futurs, actuels ou anciens étudiants en enseignement qui portent un signe religieux et 54 % des futurs, actuels ou anciens étudiants en droit qui portent un signe religieux réfléchissent à l’idée de quitter le Québec, peut-on lire dans un rapport de recherche signée par les professeures Elizabeth Elbourne (Université McGill) et Kimberley Manning (Université Concordia).

Celles-ci se sont employées à mesurer l’incidence de la loi 21 sur les projets de vie d’étudiants et de diplômés en enseignement et en droit. Pour y arriver, elles ont notamment distribué un questionnaire sur les campus des collèges et des universités, que 629 personnes ont rempli entre le 13 octobre 2020 et le 9 novembre 2021. « L’échantillonnage est relativement petit et pas nécessairement représentatif de l’ensemble des étudiants du Québec en droit et en éducation », précisent-elles.

L’idée de tourner le dos au Québec trotte aussi dans la tête de plusieurs étudiants et diplômés qui ne portent pas de signe religieux. En effet, 46 % des personnes interrogées se disent être « très ou assez susceptibles de chercher du travail ailleurs qu’au Québec à cause de la loi 21 ».

« Ce ne sont pas seulement les gens qui portent un symbole religieux, mais ce sont les membres de leur famille, ce sont leurs amis, ce sont leurs camarades de classe qui repensent leur carrière, se demandent s’ils vont rester au Québec, et cela se répercute sur leur impression générale du Québec », soutient Kimberley Manning.

D’autres, moins nombreux, se résigneraient plutôt à revoir leurs plans de carrière, croyant — parfois à tort — ne pas pouvoir aller au bout de leurs ambitions professionnelles en raison de la loi 21.

« Au lieu d’aller en droit, je vais essayer de rentrer en psychologie. Je voulais être enseignante de droit au niveau universitaire », a souligné une collégienne portant le hidjab.

« Je comptais terminer mes études en droit ou enseigner à l’université, mais j’ai changé mes plans parce que je n’ai pas d’avenir au Québec dans ces domaines », a affirmé une étudiante inscrite au programme Droit et société de l’Université Concordia. La femme, qui porte aussi le voile islamique couvrant les cheveux, les oreilles et le cou, dit ne pas pouvoir se résoudre à demander à son mari de renoncer à son emploi et à déraciner leurs trois enfants de Montréal, « une ville que nous aimons et dans laquelle nous avons vécu la majeure partie de notre vie ».

La loi 21 interdit à certains employés de l’État québécois, dont les policiers, les procureurs, les gardiens de prison, les enseignants et les directeurs d’école primaire ou secondaire publique de porter un signe religieux dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions. Les avocats de pratique privée et les professeurs de cégep ou d’université ne sont pas assujettis à l’interdiction du port de signe religieux.

Épisodes de discrimination

Par ailleurs, les chercheuses notent une montée de l’islamophobie et de l’antisémitisme depuis l’adoption de la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État par l’Assemblée nationale, en juin 2019.

Pas moins de 76,2 % des femmes portant le hidjab ou un foulard interrogées dans le cadre du projet de recherche ont rapporté avoir subi de la discrimination. Elizabeth Elbourne dit avoir été « surprise par les expériences de discrimination vécue — harcèlement dans la rue, etc. » relatées par les étudiants au fil de ses travaux.

Les autrices prennent soin de signaler « une forte possibilité [de] biais de sélection en faveur de ceux opposés à la Loi » dans les résultats du sondage, qui serait causé par le « haut taux de réponse dans la région de Montréal, où se concentrent les minorités religieuses plus que partout ailleurs au Québec, et des personnes portant des signes religieux visibles ».

Cela dit, « le fait que peu de personnes aient répondu afin d’exprimer un fort soutien à la Loi est un élément significatif en lui-même », estiment-elles.

Source: La loi 21, source de craintes pour des étudiants en droit et en enseignement

Five years after Quebec mosque shooting, everyday Islamophobia continues to have long-term impact on Muslims

Of note. Would benefit from linking to other forms of bias, prejudice and discrimination that affect many groups:

Every year on the anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, I am reminded of my visits with the families of the six victims who continue to endure the consequences of deeply rooted hatred for Muslims. It’s important as we approach Jan. 29 — the National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Islamophobia — their stories continue to be heard, and that, as a society, we work together to make this form of racism as unacceptable as any other.

The need continues to be urgent, with last year’s violent attack in London, Ont. that killed four family members and left a 9-year-old survivor.

That’s why our team here at Islamic Relief Canada has been talking to Muslims about their experiences with hatred and ignorance, and compiled them in our new report, “In Their Words: Untold Stories of Islamophobia in Canada.”

Our research reveals that hate is present in all spheres of Muslims’ lives. We heard from women who had their head scarves ripped off at school or experienced Islamophobic comments in the workplace; a man who faced discrimination within sports; a woman whose non-Muslim in-laws openly insult her religion at family dinners; and from a Quebec shooting survivor who was targeted at the mosque.

Often, when we talk about Islamophobia, we read and hear about the political implications. While that is important — you cannot combat Islamophobia without adequate legislation — the consequences of hate for ordinary people are often overlooked.

They can include emotional and mental trauma, stress in personal and professional relationships, and even long-term physical injury. For some research participants, negative experiences have led to switching schools or ceasing participation in sports. In one instance, it has meant deliberations on leaving Canada.

Sanaa (not her real name), a teacher in Quebec, says last year she was told by her school to remove her hijab to comply with Bill 21 regulations (the bill prevents those working in the public sector from wearing religious symbols). She was suspended for months, but was able to return to work on a contract technicality. Disheartened, she is taking foreign teaching exams and contemplating leaving the country she grew up in.

Along with Sanaa, others also told us Bill 21 was a pressing issue and felt strongly that the federal government needs to address it. As a country that prides itself on multiculturalism and tolerance, it is unacceptable to have legislation that discriminates against Muslims and other minority groups.

Source: Five years after Quebec mosque shooting, everyday Islamophobia continues to have long-term impact on Muslims

Middle-class Britons more likely to be biased about Islam, finds survey

Interesting, given that in most countries, the greater the education and income, the lower the level of prejudice and bias:

The middle and upper classes are more likely to hold prejudiced views about Islam than working-class groups, according to a survey from the University of Birmingham.

In one of the most detailed surveys conducted on Islamophobia and other forms of racism in modern Britain, data showed 23.2% of people from upper and lower middle-class social groups harbour prejudiced views about Islamic beliefs compared with 18.4% of people questioned from working-class groups.

The survey, carried out in conjunction with YouGov, found the British public is almost three times more likely to hold prejudiced views of Islam than they are of other religions, with 21.1% of British people wrongly believing Islam teaches its followers that the Qur’an must be read “totally literally”.

“It’s the people from an upper and middle class background, who presumably are university educated, who feel more confident in their judgments but [are] also more likely to make an incorrect judgment,” said Dr Stephen Jones, the report’s lead author. “It’s almost like because they’re more educated, they’re also more miseducated, because that’s the way Islam is presented in our society.”

The findings, presented in a report entitled The Dinner Table Prejudice: Islamophobia in Contemporary Britain, were based on interviews with a sample of 1,667 people between 20 and 21 July 2021.

The survey found more than one in four people, and nearly half of Conservative and Leave voters, hold conspiratorial views about Sharia “no-go areas”, while Muslims are the UK’s second “least liked” group, after Gypsy and Irish Travellers, with 25.9% of the British public feeling negatively towards Muslims.

The survey also found 18.1% of people support prohibiting all Muslim migration to the UK, a rate 4-6% higher than the same view for other ethnic and religious groups.

The report suggested a lack of public censure for Islamophobia, citing the example of Conservative MP Nadine Dorries supportively tweeting remarks made by anti-Islam activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson), was one reason why prejudice was so widespread.

“There’s a lack of criticism that follows Islamophobia, and that seems to correspond to the way in which Islamophobia is dealt with in public life,” said Jones. “The survey shows quite clearly it’s a very widespread prejudice. But it’s just not given the same kind of seriousness as other forms of prejudice.

“People who work in public office, whether MPs or councillors, who have got away with saying things about Muslims that they simply would not get away with if they were talking about other kinds of minority. That’s not to say those other issues don’t need to be taken seriously as well, it’s simply to say that this particular form of prejudice doesn’t get due recognition.”

Researchers recommended the government and other public figures should publicly acknowledge the lack of criticism of Islamophobia, and how it stands out compared with other forms of racism and prejudice. The report also suggested civil society organisations and equality bodies should recognise how systemic miseducation about Islam is common in British society and is a key element of Islamophobia.

Jones said: “No one is calling for laws regulating criticism of religion, but we have to recognise that the British public has been systematically miseducated about Islamic tradition and take steps to remedy this.”

Source: Middle-class Britons more likely to be biased about Islam, finds survey

Regg Cohn: Ignoring antisemitism hasn’t made it go away

Good reminder:

We haven’t heard much about deep-seated antisemitism in Canada since the notorious Jim Keegstra. Infamous and unforgettable, he taught Holocaust denial in Alberta classrooms and testified to it in Alberta courtrooms.

Well that was decades ago, you think. Not in Ontario today, you say?

You’ve likely never heard of Joseph DiMarco, because you probably haven’t seen his story anywhere.

DiMarco is an Ontario teacher fired for preaching Holocaust denial and spouting antisemitism in a Timmins Catholic school. After earning his education certificate at Nipissing University 16 years ago, he taught his students to question the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

After a hearing last November, based on an agreed statement of facts (DiMarco did not attend or contest the charges), the provincial regulator revoked his licence to teach. In the weeks since, there’s been barely a ripple in the mainstream media — I’d not seen anything on this until someone passed on a recent story in the Canadian Jewish News online.

“When students tried to challenge or question the … assertions about the figure of six million deaths not being accurate, the (teacher) was dismissive, reminding the students how much research he had done,” a discipline committee of the Ontario College of Teachers concluded.

The regulator noted that DiMarco “provided students with learning material about the Holocaust from disreputable and unapproved sources which contradicted the facts.”

He tried to justify his conspiracy theories as merely anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, not antisemitic as such. But he knew what he was doing when he curated his own “Zionism slide show” as a teaching tool.

DiMarco ridiculed a school field trip to a Nazi concentration camp as evidence that the “powers that be” were spreading propaganda. He also taught his students that Israel was the evil force behind the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands in the U.S.

The regulator quoted from DiMarco’s email to the school chaplain explaining that “If some people actually understood who was pulling the strings, and the truth came out — antisemitism will return with a ferocity seldom seen throughout history.”

What’s noteworthy is that his teachings, and his firing, never seemed especially newsworthy. 

We read a great deal in the media about the rise of racism and white supremacy in society today. Yet when we come across someone who denies the genocide that claimed six million Jewish lives in pursuit of Nazi ideals of white supremacy — in the guise of Aryan purity — it barely rates a mention.

Is it because most Jews immigrated and integrated so long ago that they are deemed well entrenched, and hence less deserving of coverage? Does the old media credo to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” diminish journalistic interest in Jews (or anyone else) who might be comfortably established?

If Jews have agency, is there less urgency?

Behold the risk of complacency: After the terror of a rabbi and Jewish worshippers being taken hostage in a Texas synagogue this month, by a gunman ranting online about the putative power of Jews, the FBI reassured Americans that this was not, actually, an antisemitic act. The media dutifully, uncritically, incredibly, reported that as fact — until, days later, the FBI reassessed and recanted.

And yet according to FBI statistics, 60 per cent of all victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2019 were targeted because of anti-Jewish bias. About 13 per cent were victims of anti-Muslim bias.

Well that’s just America with its own peculiar blinkers, you think. Not in Canada, you say?

A recent headline proclaimed: “Toronto saw an ‘unprecedented’ spike in hate crime in 2020, including rise in anti-Asian and anti-Black incidents, police say.”

Yet the headline skipped over the reality — noted in the story — that antisemitic attacks were as high as ever, and disproportionately so: “Although Jewish people represent just 3.8 per cent of Toronto’s population, the community saw 30 per cent of reported hate crimes in 2020” — less newsworthy because they’ve always been historically high, and hence old news?

I first wondered about this phenomenon last year after writing a column about the continued Islamophobic attacks on two high-profile Toronto Muslims — Paramount Fine Foods founder Mohamad Fakih, and Walied Soliman, chair of the Norton Rose Fulbright Canada law firm. The unprecedented success of these two in counterattacking in court — effectively silencing and subduing their tormentors — received remarkably little coverage despite the recent proliferation of racism stories.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia are close cousins. Will journalistic indifference to the same old same old antisemitism translate, increasingly, into a similar kind of Islamophobia fatigue if the targets are prominent, or prosperous, or well-protected?

None of this is to diminish the impact of discrimination on other groups or individuals. But auspicious archetypes and hateful stereotypes have a way of blurring our vision and vigilance — Muslims aren’t all well-connected, just as all Jews aren’t well-established — and even if they were, would the hate be any less harmful? 

Intolerance strikes in all shapes and sizes — and all social classes of all societies. I got into journalism to “comfort the afflicted.” But not even the comfortable, of any race or religion, deserve the affliction of discrimination and persecution.