German professor under police protection for stance on Islamophobia

Making distinctions and nuance matter rather than shutting down discussion:

“Fascists in our lecture halls! Dismiss Professor Kinzler! Islamophobia kills,” read the large banners hanging at the University of Grenoble. Activists from the French student union Unef also posted the slogans online.

Five months after the brutal murder of history teacher Samuel Paty, being accused of Islamophobia is not something that is taken lightly in France. Following a debate that sparked outrage at the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies, two professors are under police protection.

Here’s how it happened: 3 1/2 months ago, students and teachers at the university were discussing the title of a planned seminar on the topic of equality. Should “Islamophobia” be included alongside “anti-Semitism” and “racism”?

Professor Klaus Kinzler, who teaches German language and culture at the university, felt that Islamophobia wasn’t comparable to anti-Semitism. Following his advice to not include the term “Islamophobia” in the title of the seminar, he was excluded from the email discussion.

Incidentally, the Stuttgart-born professor is married to a Muslim woman.

When another professor showed solidarity with Kinzler, the student union Unef also targeted him.

France’s interior minister for citizenship, Marlene Schiappa, reacted to the case: After the decapitation of the teacher Samuel Paty, the current hate campaign against the professors is “a particularly disgusting act,” said Schiappa in a TV interview. The Unef has actively “put the life of professors in mortal danger,” she added.

A reflection of France’s integration problem

German historian and author Philipp Blom sees in France’s current discussions on Islamophobia a reflection of social issues related to the country’s position as a former colonial power, where strong “functional racism” rules.

The integration of immigrants from North Africa has failed blatantly, points out Blom. “In the banlieues on the outskirts of Paris, it doesn’t feel like you’re living in France. You don’t have the same opportunities as other people,” Blom told DW.

Experiencing marginalization and humiliation, an entire generation has come of age in milieus in which petty criminals and radical Islamists vie for domination. “I can understand that this creates anger, including murderous anger,” says Blom.

People were already calling for change in the ‘banlieues,’ or the outskirts of French cities, in 2005

But that is not a specifically French problem, adds the historian, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Still, the experience of humiliation is “a very important political force.”

Identity politics and cancel culture

Klaus Kinzler told German newspaper Die Welt that there is a form of political activism in France that disguises itself as academia.

Similarly, political scientist Claus Leggewie points out that those activists aren’t fighting against the powerful, the establishment, the far-right or the real fascists, but against people whose views are seen as “not being pro-Islamic enough.”

Leggewie describes the case as being about “canceling” specific persons, silencing them, and “banning ideas and discussions.”

Social media has also become the echo chamber of social identity groups, which are increasingly excluding people with other ideas. By staging controversies online, members of these groups gain immediate media recognition, says Leggewie. “That is exactly what has happened in Grenoble, and with Samuel Paty basically too, and in his case it was fatal,” adds the political expert.

Islamophobia versus anti-Semitism

Klaus Kinzler has been a professor at the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies for 25 years now. He was “not surprised” by the slogans on the university building, since the student union Unef had already branded him as a right-wing extremist and Islamophobe in social networks.

Racism and anti-Semitism — which are both criminal offenses in secular France — have nothing to do with Islamophobia, in Kinzler’s view.”Anti-Semitism has resulted in millions of deaths. Genocide without end. Then there is racism, slavery. That, too, has led to tens of millions of deaths in history,” he told Die Welt. “But where are the millions of deaths linked to Islamophobia?” he asked, nevertheless clarifying: “I do not deny that people of Muslim faith are discriminated against. I just refuse to put it on the same level. I think this is an absurd deception.”

Kinzler was a “completely normal professor of German at a provincial institute” and had always enjoyed his work, he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Before the controversy, his students told him that they appreciated that he defended free, liberal positions. “The exchanges were always enriching,” he said.

In the end, he says, he is less offended by the students who launched the hate campaign than by his colleagues, researchers and professors — who have distanced themselves from him without searching for dialogue.

Source: German professor under police protection for stance on Islamophobia

‘It’s so unfair’: life on the streets of the French town branded as ‘lost to Islam’

Good profile of the reality on the ground compared to the polemics:

The HairCoiffure salon on Rue Jean Jaurès, a short walk from Trappes station, is offering a cut-and-blow-dry for women at €18 (£15.50) and €15 for men, a banal observation at the centre of the latest battle in France’s toxic debate over religious extremism.

Hairdressers and their clients hit the headlines after local teacher Didier Lemaire claimed there were no mixed salons in Trappes – suggesting the town was in the stranglehold of Islamic radicalisation. He also claimed schoolchildren were banned from singing and some women barred from cafes. Lemaire has since been placed under police protection following alleged death threats.

The accusations came on the eve French MPs voted on a controversial bill to combat Islamist extremism, put forward after the brutal murder of teacher Samuel Paty last October.

But the claims have sparked anger and indignation from locals known as Trappists – the most famous of whom are the actor Omar Sy, footballer Nicolas Anelka and popular French comedian Jamel Debbouze. In an interview with the Observer, town mayor Ali Rabbeh hit back.

“We are being stigmatised,” he said. “Many of the people spreading lies, exaggerations and unjust accusations about Trappes have no idea what happens here. They have never set foot in the town.

“Yes, there are problems with drugs, delinquency and radicalisation. I have never denied that. But we’re working to resolve them and these sort of attacks don’t help. And of course our children sing: they sing in nursery, primary and secondary schools. We even have school choirs.”

Trappes, in the western suburbs of Paris near Versailles, holds a grim national record after more than 60 local young people left to join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, making it a soft target in this political and ideological conflict.

It is also in the Yvelines department where Paty was beheaded last October. So when philosophy professor Lemaire, 55, claimed the town was under the yoke of Salafism and “definitively lost” to the republic, he had a captive audience. “There are no more mixed hairdressers, north African women can no longer go to cafés, there’s pressure on women over the veil … Trappes is no longer in France,” Lemaire told French TV. He claimed locals were “living in fear” and laicité – France’s cherished separation of religion and state – was defeated. (Lemaire later admitted his comments on hairdressers were “approximative” but doubled down on the rest).

Rabbeh, 36, the son of Moroccan migrants, responded angrily, accusing Lemaire and the media who gave him airtime of stoking division and making life even more complicated for locals. “Young people taking the baccalauréat this year tell me they’re worried sick about how they’re going to get places at good colleges and universities when they say they’re from Trappes,” Rabbeh said. “It’s so unfair on them. It’s as if every single time we get our head out of water, someone pushes us back under.” Like Lemaire, Rabbeh has also been given police protection.

On a chilly recent Friday, the snow-dusted streets of Trappes were calm. On one side of town, a cluster of men drank outside a bar near the station, on the other worshippers clutching prayer mats streamed from the local mosque. Yards from the Lycée La Plaine de Neauphle where Lemaire taught for 20 years, the window of another hairdressers, Saint Lou Coiffure, was clearly marked “Masculin – Feminin”. The town boasts a modern music and dance school, with subsidised classes for low-income families; the Trappes magazine carries pictures of December’s “Magic of Christmas” illuminations.

Inside the town hall, Rabbeh was fuming: “We know there is a problem with Islamism here but we have made progress. We are working to resolve these problems and someone comes along and attacks us with lies, exaggerations and unjust accusations. Sometimes I despair.”

He added: “Would a mayor with a different name be faced with this? Trappes is part of the French republic. It’s absolutely untrue to suggest otherwise.”

It would be easy to dismiss Trappes as yet another rundown, problem-riddled Paris suburb were it not for the fact that it has benefited from a vast urban renewal programme. Most of its dilapidated 1970s high-rise tower blocks have been demolished and the council estates renovated. More mixed private and public housing with flower beds and children’s playgrounds are gradually replacing low-rent housing. The streets are clean, local facilities modernised and Lemaire’s own lycée boasts the best results in the department. Unemployment is running at 5.6% of the active population – half of whom are under 30 – compared with 6.7% for Paris.

The picture is not all rosy, though: more than a quarter of Trappists live under the poverty line and Rabbeh says the Islamic radicalisation problem is “complex” and fuelled by a sense that the republic has abandoned local communities like Trappes.

When a TV crew made an unannounced visit locals crowded round to defend their town. Jacques Michelet who runs the Trappes basketball club rejected the suggestion it had been abandoned to Islamic extremism: “We’ve seen all ideologies, we’ve seen extremists and not just Islamists … but it’s a marginal phenomenon in Trappes.”

Father Etienne Guillet, the local Catholic priest, contested Lemaire’s suggestion that non-Muslim inhabitants have fled. His congregation boasts up to 700 people from 45 different countries. “When there are tensions, I meet with the local imams and we sort things out,” said Guillet. “It’s not easy for everyone to live together and there ’s always the temptation for communities to withdraw, but what I see in this town is things going well.”

Rabbeh said last week he was stepping back from the row, posting a quote by French socialist leader Jean Jaurès, whose statue stands outside Trappes town hall, on social media. It reads: “Courage is to seek the truth and tell it; it is not to be subjected to the law of the triumphant lie that passes, and not to echo, from our soul, mouth and hands to foolish applause and fanatical booing.”

Source: ‘It’s so unfair’: life on the streets of the French town branded as ‘lost to Islam’

Heating Up Culture Wars, France to Scour Universities for Ideas That ‘Corrupt Society’

Trying to outflank the right is never good policy, even if sometimes “good” politics:

Stepping up its attacks on social science theories that it says threaten France, the French government announced this week that it would launch an investigation into academic research that it says feeds “Islamo-leftist’’ tendencies that “corrupt society.’’

News of the investigation immediately caused a fierce backlash among university presidents and scholars, deepening fears of a crackdown on academic freedom — especially on studies of race, gender, post-colonial studies and other fields that the French government says have been imported from American universities and contribute to undermining French society.

While President Emmanuel Macron and some of his top ministers have spoken out forcefully against what they see as a destabilizing influence from American campuses in recent months, the announcement marked the first time that the government has moved to take action.

It came as France’s lower house of Parliament passed a draft lawagainst Islamism, an ideology it views as encouraging terrorist attacks, and as Mr. Macron tilts further to the right, anticipating nationalist challenges ahead of elections next year.

Frédérique Vidal, the minister of higher education, said in Parliament on Tuesday that the state-run National Center for Scientific Research would oversee an investigation into the “totality of research underway in our country,’’ singling out post-colonialism.

In an earlier television interview, Ms. Vidal said the investigation would focus on “Islamo-leftism’’ — a controversial term embraced by some of Mr. Macron’s leading ministers to accuse left-leaning intellectuals of justifying Islamism and even terrorism.

“Islamo-leftism corrupts all of society and universities are not impervious,’’ Ms. Vidal said, adding that some scholars were advancing “radical” and “activist” ideas. Referring also to scholars of race and gender, Ms. Vidal accused them of “always looking at everything through the prism of their will to divide, to fracture, to pinpoint the enemy.’’

France has since early last century defined itself as a secular state devoted to the ideal that all of its citizens are the same under the law, to the extent that the government keeps no statistics on ethnicity and religion.

Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

Interesting analysis at the level of Muslim sub-group level. From my experience managing the multiculturalism program, including G&Cs 2008-11, never possible to satisfy all groups and having local officials recommend projects often led to their “capture” by particular groups.

Organizational capacity is, of course, a real issue but providing this risks further increasing dependence on governments and is more difficult to sell than project funding.

Given the small size of the most funded initiatives at that time, I was never convinced of the longer-term outcomes of these projects: 

Four years ago a white supremacist walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire in a premeditated rampage, killing six Muslim men as they worshipped, injuring and traumatizing countless others, and altering the lives of an entire community forever.

Afterward, Canadians listened as politicians of all stripes made statements and speeches about the tragedy. But the federal government response has involved limited action. Except for passing reference to Muslims in relation to challenging online hate in Canada’s 2019-2022 Anti-Racism Strategy, any targeted focus on addressing Islamophobia appears to have evaporated since the passage of M-103, a non-binding motion condemning Islamophobia, and the ensuing report Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia.

Yet systemic, institutional, and societal forms of exclusion remain a daily reality for many Canadian Muslims, in part because the nuances of Islamophobia as a phenomenon remain poorly understood by public leaders and institutions. This is arguably because governments aren’t resourcing nearly enough anti-Islamophobia work led by the people and civil society groups who understand the issue and experience it most severely.

Federal anti-racism funding by the numbers

In 2019, the Department of Canadian Heritage, through its Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives program, allocated just 3.7 per cent of $21 million in funding to Muslim-led and -serving organizations. (This excludes funds disbursed through the Community Support For Black Canadian Youth Initiative.)

Just 2 per cent of all funds went to organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 0.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 1 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal funding.

The violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated.

Statistics from the Anti-Racism Action Program are nominally better, with about 10 per cent of $15 million in funding going to Muslim-led organizations, although the pattern of limited engagement with organizations led by Muslims most likely to experience systemic barriers persists. Just over 3 per cent of funds through this program were secured by organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 1.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 2.5 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal public funding.

Both the Anti-Racism Action Program and Community Support, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives have been shaped by the Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia report, which recommends providing resources to communities most impacted by systemic racism and religious discrimination.

This is why it’s concerning that limited funding has made its way to organizations led by the Muslims most impacted by racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia.

Islamophobic violence and exclusion in Canada

In 2018, Muslims were still among those most likely to be targeted by hate crimes, after Jewish and Black Canadians (it’s not clear how hate crimes against persons with multiple and intersecting identities, for example, those who are both Black and Muslim, are classified or captured by Statistics Canada).

Data also shows Muslim women were more likely to be targeted relative to women from other groups, arguably due to the visibility of women who wear the hijab. Additional research shows that Black Muslim women consistently report the highest levels of discrimination among all Muslims across contexts, and Black Muslim men report significant barriers to political participation.

Today, the violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated. Just months ago, mosque volunteer Mohammed-Aslim Zafis was senselessly murderedoutside an Etobicoke mosque, and at least two mosques in Toronto and Edmonton received threats of violence.

Racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power.

Researcher and scholar Dr. Siham Rayale of the Black Muslim Initiative, an organization dedicated to addressing issues of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia, notes that hate crime statistics underrepresent the frequency of Islamophobic violence in Canada “because the threshold for what’s considered a hate crime directed at Muslims is often so high.” Statistics also don’t account for violence by state institutions, which typically impact the Muslims most excluded in Canadian society, she adds.

Further, “subtle Islamophobia” — which implicitly relies on harmful ideas about Muslims but occurs behind a polite veneer — is more difficult to measure. This is because it is “nuanced and not always a discrete event,” yet it is equally prevalent in workplaces and academic institutions, according to Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan, who has a legal background and expertise supporting individuals navigating human rights redress systems. Hirji-Khalfan notes this can be equally “violent and horrific … in terms of its impact” on Muslim workers and students, particularly those who are visibly Muslim.

Conversations like these highlight the importance of broadening understandings of Islamophobia from an issue of misguided individuals — hate crimes, online hate, and racial slurs — to a challenge that is both systemic and societal.

Why groups impacted most severely should be prioritized

Arguably, trends in who is impacted by Islamophobia and exclusion should drive how funding is allocated.

Research shows that efforts to address inequality led by individuals with lived experience are more likely to achieve and exceed their goals. And funding groups led by those closest to the issues promotes their self-determination and agency, and signals the legitimacy of their work to other public institutions and funders.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo.

At its core, racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power. Orientalism, the racial theory from which contemporary Islamophobia originates, was used to justify European colonization of Muslim-majority societies and their resources, lands, and labour because Muslims were supposedly too barbaric and backwards to govern themselves. Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

This shows that resourcing the Muslim organizations led by persons who experience Islamophobia and discrimination most intimately is not just the right thing to do. It will also make our fight against Islamophobia in Canada more effective.

Historic resource inequities influence access to funding

With a relatively young and largely immigrant presence in Canada, Muslims here statistically have lower incomes, although they are more educated on average than other Canadians.

So it is unsurprising that many Muslim-led organizations are small and “don’t always have the organizational capacity — knowledge, relationships, time, and staff resources — to write successful grant applications,” says former Ontario human rights commissioner Rabia Khedr, now CEO of DEEN Support Services, a charity founded by Muslims with disabilities. This offers one explanation for the limited number of Muslim-led organizations funded under the two federal programs.

Additionally, many Muslim-led organizations “are new and it takes time to build up a history of projects to qualify for consideration by governments and foundations for funds,” says Muneeb Nasir of the Olive Tree Foundation, a Muslim-led philanthropic organization.

Public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia.

Nasir adds that the few Muslim organizations able to secure funding are usually “well established and have [full-time] staff and connections to governments” as well as an ability to forge partnerships with registered charities, historically a requirement to access public funding. This highlights that organizations often need pre-existing resources to access public funding.

Recently, however, access to funding for Muslim-led groups has been improving, say Naeem Siddiqi, Olive Tree Foundation vice chair, and Dr. Katherine Bullock, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and researcher on the lived experiences of Muslims in Canada. In particular, Siddiqi notes that second-generation Muslim organizations that are “more sophisticated” and not faith based are often more successful in securing government grants.

It thus appears that while certain Muslim-led organizations have better access to public funding, barriers for others who face Islamophobia first-hand may persist because of resource and capacity constraints, as well as connections to faith-based spaces. But if we are to ensure those most impacted by Islamophobia, racism, and exclusion are able to lead anti-Islamophobia work, these issues of access to funding will need to be addressed.

‘Good Muslims,’ privilege, and access to public funding

As statistical data and multiple accounts by scholars and practitioners illustrate, not all Muslims experience Islamophobia and social exclusion in the same ways. Further, not all Muslims are willing to meaningfully challenge Islamophobia.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo, which subordinates Black, Indigenous, and racialized people in society. “It benefits them financially, socially, it’s essentially self-interested,” says Dr. Rayale.

No intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted.

Muslims who are visible and grounded in faith-based spaces, however, are less able do this because they are “not perceived as neutral and … already perceived as people with an agenda, and that agenda is not agreeable” to liberal institutions, says Hirji-Khalfan.

She cites an experience on a public board where a Muslim man “challenged me as to whether or not racism actually exists [in Canada] or people just play the race card” as an example of how sometimes Muslim people with power can play the “good Muslim,” upholding whiteness and contributing little to advancing conversations about racism and discrimination in society.

These nuances — visibility, connections to faith-based spaces, social class, and race — impact how Islamophobia is experienced and challenged, and are important considerations when allocating funding for anti-racism initiatives.

Addressing the challenge of underfunded Muslim groups on the front lines

If we are to meaningfully advance the fight against racism and exclusion in Canadian society, public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia, from hate crimes and online hate to a form of systemic racism that can be implicit or overt and that exists in institutions too.

Public institutions need to prioritize funding for those most impacted. And as shown by the recent controversy in which the Somali Centre for Family Services was denied public funding, those reviewing grant applications must have strong knowledge of local communities and the organizations that serve their needs, and for public officials to build strong relationships with groups on the front lines as well.

Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

Further, public institutions should design funding opportunities through an anti-racism and equity lens — recognizing that those most impacted by exclusion may be running smaller, never before funded organizations and may not have grant applications that are as competitive as those from organizations with resources. Nevertheless, these small organizations may be more innovative and nimble, and have deep roots within an impacted community that can contribute to the effectiveness of their work.

Making capacity-building funding more accessible, so that small Muslim-led organizations doing critical work with limited resources can grow their infrastructure and become competitive, will also help address the challenges of underresourced anti-Islamophobia work.

Finally, while the names of recipients and the amount of federal public funding they receive is published, no intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted. This data can be a helpful indicator of how the fight against racism, Islamophobia, and exclusion in Canadian society is progressing.

By taking decisive action in these ways, government and civil society organizations led by Muslims with first-hand knowledge of the issues can work hand in hand to challenge the roots of racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia in Canada. In so doing, we can ensure we put an end to national tragedies, as well as systems and structures that exclude and dehumanize.

Sanaa Ali-Mohammed is a community engaged researcher, organizer and human rights advocate based in Dish with One Spoon Treaty Territory. She sits on the board of Urban Alliance on Race Relations, which trustees the grant the Black Muslim Initiative received from the Olive Tree Foundation.

Source: Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

Prevent doesn’t stop students being radicalised. It just reinforces Islamophobia

Interesting survey. Whether the issues are with Prevent itself or more generalized attitudes towards Muslims and media coverage is unclear:

The UK government has long maintained that radicalisation is a problem in universities and that Prevent, the national counter-terror programme, is an essential means of tackling it. Yet recently the Office for Students reported very little such activity: in 2017-18, only 15 referrals were made by universities to Channel in England (the Prevent rehabilitation programme), and it is unlikely that all 15 were found to be terrorism-related.

Despite a clear lack of evidence of radicalisation in universities, Prevent training continues for staff. Indeed, a major new report of a three-year study of Islam on campus shows that almost 10% of all students believe there may be some risk on their campus. Our research reveals that Prevent reinforces negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims: 20% of students believe that Islam is not compatible with British values; among those supportive of Prevent, the figure rises to 35%.

This project, led at Soas University of London by myself and Dr Aisha Phoenix, with Professor Mathew Guest (Durham), Dr Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster) and Assistant Professor Dr. Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Coventry), is the largest data set yet collected about Islam on campus. In total, 2,022 students attending 132 universities answered a detailed online survey. We also collected and analysed 140 hours of interviews from six campuses.

Our research finds that Prevent discourages discussion about culture, identity and religion – especially, but not exclusively, about Islam. Students and staff are discouraged from raising concerns about Prevent. They self-censor their discussions in order to avoid becoming the object of suspicion and are sometimes discouraged from exploring, researching or teaching about Islam. They see this as a counterproductive policy in the light of the perceived need for securitisation to fight terrorism, which trumps all other human rights.

On the other hand, 59% of students said they’d never heard of Prevent, yet many of those then expressed opinions about it, from an apparently non-existent knowledge base. When students are kept ignorant, this creates a democratic deficit: the student population should be fully informed about Prevent, about perceived and actual risk, about the facts and figures, and encouraged to debate these issues. Honesty and clarity are urgently required.

There’s so much more that the campus offers. The university population is religiously and culturally diverse, and despite the secular tone of the modern campus, most of our student sample believe that religion is an important source of moral values. Almost 70% of Muslim students and 56% of Christian students believe that university provides a valuable opportunity to develop their faith in new ways. And 79% of Muslim students believe that the university experience should encourage critical thinking about matters of faith.

Source: Prevent doesn’t stop students being radicalised. It just reinforces Islamophobia

In Canada, Homegrown Islamophobia Gets a Boost from Modi’s Supporters in India

The traditional concern regarding Indo-Canadians has focused more of Sikh extremism than the Hindu extremism covered in this commentary. Liberal Brampton Centre MP Ramesh Sangha had made the following accusation: Brampton Liberal MP says his party ‘pandering’ to Sikh separatists.

Canadian “mainstream” media coverage has been limited, safe for the call to prayer (azan) controversy during Ramadan.

The PM’s disastrous 2018 India trip may also contribute to Canada’s relative reluctance to comment on Indian government abuses:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has long been criticized for discriminating against India’s estimated 200 million Muslims. Tensions between this large minority and the Hindu nationalists who support Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been mounting in recent years, resulting in worrying laws, dangerous harassment, and deadly mob violence in India. Now, the hostility has moved outside of India’s borders. Thanks to social media and a dedicated diaspora, antagonism toward Muslims by supporters of India’s right-wing, Hindu nationalist government has gone global. And the international spread of domestic prejudices is causing diplomatic ripple effects for India’s allies.

This has been particularly apparent in the Persian Gulf region, home to millions of Indian expatriates. Modi’s carefully cultivated ties to the Gulf regimes are now threatened by instances of ultra-nationalist Indian expats spewing Islamophobic rhetoric online. While much of the vitriol has been aimed at the Muslim population back home in India, it has also taken the form of social media posts that denigrated Islam more generally, as well as the Prophet Mohammed. The situation has led to rare criticism of Modi by Gulf elites. In April, the government of Kuwait, along with a member of the Sharjah royal family in the United Arab Emirates, criticized widespread Islamophobic social media posts in India accusing the country’s Muslims of deliberately spreading the coronavirus and engaging in a “corona jihad.” Modi eventually responded by tweeting that the virus “does not see race [or] religion,” although his government’s rhetoric says otherwise. A month later, the UAE Federal Public Prosecution issued a public warning against discrimination after scores of Indian expats were fired from their jobs for anti-Muslim social media posts. This and similar incidents led the Dubai-based Gulf News to run an editorial in May calling for India to stop “exporting hate” to the Gulf.

In the West, the BJP’s brand of Islamophobia has found an eager partner among the far-right, as recent developments in famously multicultural Canada demonstrate.

In April, city councils across Canada voted to allow the Islamic call to prayer, the azan, to be broadcasted for a few minutes a day during the holy month of Ramadan. The government hoped to foster a sense of inclusion as mosques and other places of worship were closed for the COVID-19 lockdown. The decision elicited a major backlash, including mass petitions and online hate, with the far-right suggesting “Islamism” had infiltrated Canadian society and politics.

Some members of Canada’s Indian diaspora echoed such sentiments, tweeting comments about how the prayer call broadcasts are part of an Islamist “strategical campaign through out the world” or that “blaring loudspeakers” can never be “peaceful.” Several of the tweeters have quietly lost their jobs since then, amid pressure from anti-hate groups.

But few cases have garnered much attention. The exception is that of Ravi Hooda, who sat on a regional school board in the Toronto area and tweeted that allowing the prayer calls to be broadcast opens the door for “Separate lanes for camel & goat riders” or laws “requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents.” When Hooda’s tweet was called out by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a Twitter war ensued. Dozens of pro-Indian accounts, often with usernames containing an eight-digit string of numbers—a common indicator of a bot account—came to Hooda’s defense. A local controversy instantly took on an international character.

Hooda, for his part, is a volunteer for the local branch of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, which represents the overseas interests of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization that promotes the Hindutva (literally, “Hindu-ness”) ideology that India is a purely Hindu nation at its core. Modi himself is a lifelong RSS member, and a majority of his ministers have a background in the organization. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh opened its first chapter in 1947, in Kenya, and today has more than 500 branches in 39 countries. The group’s chapters are called shakhas(branches) and, in addition to offering community services, help organize the diaspora through lectures, camps, and other organizational sessions that are aligned with the RSS’s ideological outlook.

The spread of right-wing Hindu nationalism in Canada has allegedly dovetailed with efforts by Indian intelligence agencies to “covertly influence” Canadian politicians to support Indian government positions through disinformation and money, according to documents obtained by Global News. There’s no proof of how successful this lobbying has been, but it’s clear that New Delhi is stretching its global reach at the same time that the BJP’s rhetoric and actions have politicized a new generation of Indian expats.

A glimpse of this global reach was provided by the EU DisinfoLab last fall in a report detailing a network of over 260 pro-India “fake local media outlets” spanning 65 countries, including throughout the West. The media organizations bear the names of local towns and cities, but none of them has any real connection with the localities they purport to represent, and all feature pro-India and anti-Pakistan content. Every news site was registered by the Srivastava Group, an Indian corporation that last year took right-wing European politicians on a trip to Kashmir, where they met with Modi.

Such reach can also be seen in the efforts of Indian expats and Indian Americans in the United States who organized last fall’s “Howdy, Modi!” event in Houston attended by 50,000 people, including U.S. President Donald Trump and other Republican and Democratic politicians. Indian American volunteers did the heavy lifting and funded the event, which turned a meeting between heads of state into a public spectacle. The event was meant to cement Trump-Modi relations as well as to rally the U.S.-based diaspora around the BJP, thus bolstering the prime minister’s popularity back home.

An organized, RSS-minded, pro-BJP diaspora in the West and beyond would obviously be a great asset for Modi’s government.

 Elected officials would think twice before criticizing India, already a rising and influential power, for fear of angering their constituents. There are already hints that such calculations are being made by leaders. After an anti-Muslim pogrom broke out in Delhi in February, resulting in more than 50 deaths—the worst sectarian violence India has seen in years—Canada kept almost silent. While speaking to his Indian counterpart after the riots, the Canadian foreign minister offered a note of vague concern, roundly criticized in Canadian media. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made no statement, and the four Indian Canadian members of Trudeau’s Liberal caucus showed a similar reluctance to comment, drawing criticism from community organizations.

Similarly, foreign governments remained largely silent last summer when Modi stripped Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and placed it under a brutal military lockdown. This had observers wondering whether “Hindutva-inspired lobbies in the West,” as the researcher Fareeha Shamim labeled them, succeeded in their goals of building global influence from the ground up. Liberal politicians now hold an uncomfortable position, reluctant to criticize Modi lest they be attacked by his supporters in the diaspora.

Source: In Canada, Homegrown Islamophobia Gets a Boost from Modi’s Supporters in India

Opinion: Tunisia has a problem with internalised Islamophobia

More the tension between more conservative strains of Islam and more secular Muslims than Islamophobia:

On March 13, the Tunisian government announced emergency measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures included closing its sea borders, suspending international flights, shutting cafes from 4pm and completely closing mosques.

It was this last decision that sparked controversy on social media and among religious scholars and reminded many Tunisians of something they have long suspected; a deep-seated Islamophobia that has framed internal Tunisian policies and politics since the country’s independence from French colonial rule in 1956.

While the importance of prevention measures and controlling the spread of the virus is not debatable, the choice to completely close down mosques while only partially closing cafes was met with dismay.

Hicham Grissa, president of Zitouna University in Montfleury, criticised the decision as being “unresponsive” to people’s need for religious and spiritual practices in these times.

Grissa said while the spread of the virus will determine future actions, right now “you should not be talking about prohibiting prayer in mosques, unless the same measures are being taken for cafes and clubs.”

One mosque-goer in Nabeul, where I am from, told me: “I went to pray at dawn and the mosque was closed.

“We are usually only a dozen people at the Fajr prayer in the neighbourhood mosque, and we’re only there for 10 or 15 minutes. I just don’t see how that poses a higher risk than cafes downtown that host hundreds of people throughout the day.”

As schools and universities were closed from March 12, Tunisian youth took to cafes, sitting in confined spaces, drinking coffee and playing card games.

The decision to suspend prayer in mosques was, therefore, perceived by many social media users as the continuation of a state tradition of what they see as internalised Islamophobia, and “problematising” Islam and Islamic practices as the first step in dealing with crises.

This is all reminiscent of another problematic decision illustrating the internalised Islamophobia of the Tunisian state – the niqab ban imposed in July 2019.

After a double suicide bombing in June, Tunisia’s prime minister, Youssef Chahed, issued an order banning the wearing of the Islamic face veil in all state buildings and institutions for “security reasons”. This, despite the fact that the Ministry of Interior denied that the culprit had been wearing a niqab to disguise himself.

Several civil society organisations and politicians considered this to be a repetition of the hijab ban which has been imposed several times in Tunisia’s modern history. Over time, such bans have taken their toll on women’s rights and on freedom of religion, with resulting arrests, imprisonment, suspension from work and even police violence.

In 2019, activists argued that, if security is a concern, the state can take several measures to ensure security without infringing on freedom of religion and banning clothing. For example, female police officers or employees could carry out identity checks or searches at the entrance to public buildings in case of security concerns.

However, consecutive Tunisian governments from 1956, while more lenient today than in the past, have continued to exhibit an internalised Islamophobia that has propagated throughout Tunisia.

In the 1960s, Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first post-independence president, sought to weaken Islamic culture and establish a secular national identity. He closed the historical Islamic Zitouna University and discouraged fasting, personally appearing on TV drinking orange juice during Ramadan and advising Tunisians to do the same.

The Bourguiba administration abolished the system of religious endowments and religious courts, banned groups and political parties with an Islamic focus and officially banned the hijab in 1981, a policy that remained in place until the Tunisian revolution in 2011.

This state-sanctioned anti-hijab sentiment can be traced back to French colonial rule when women were encouraged to remove their veils as a statement of modernity and civilisation. This began in Algeria, but it was this Western notion of “modernity” that Bourguiba later sought to enforce in Tunisia.

This imposition of secular national identity resulted not only in the persecution of large groups of people but also in a growing societal mistrust of certain Islamic practices.

Restrictions on Islamic practices intensified during the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali administration from 1987 to 2011, when the state leveraged the fear of the threat of terrorism to crack down even more on religious freedoms and further entice fear of Islam among its population.

The Ben Ali administration enacted the 2003 anti-terrorism law, for example, which served to further alienate and persecute political opposition and ordinary religious people.

According to reports by organisations such as Amnesty International, between 2,000 and 3,000 people were prosecuted under this law. The law was vague and activities that were deemed to warrant police investigation included praying in mosques and owning Islamic items.

Just like the Bourguiba government before it, the Ben Ali administration established an increasingly authoritarian rule, under the cover of “modernity” and “fighting terrorism”, amid silence from Western allies such as the United States and France.

People who wore the hijab, who went to the mosque regularly or who engaged in Quran studies or recitation were perceived as “too religious”, and as a threat to Tunisian homogeneity and state security.

Documents found by protesters in police stations during the 2010 to 2011 protests showed how informants would keep logs of the numbers of people who went to a specific mosque, who was in the front row, how many women wore the headscarf and even how many women wore the headscarf but with more conservative, loose-fitting dresses.

A classified internal document from the Ministry of the Interior dated 2009, which started circulating on social media a few weeks ago, reads: “I am honoured to let you know that on 18/03/2009, a girl wearing a headscarf was detained [….] after investigation it became clear that she practises her religious duties regularly. She was warned about the necessity to remove the sectarian dress and she showed willingness to do so.” “Sectarian clothing” was the term used by the government to describe the headscarf at that time.

The government’s use of both police and neighbours/colleagues to watch out for each other’s “level of religiousness”, has resulted in these policies being adopted at a societal and individual level.

Despite the political changes brought by the revolution in 2011, these policies seeped into certain domains and became part of the culture.

Women wearing the hijab are still discriminated against. They are prohibited from certain swimming pools for “hygiene reasons” while men with long beards are still perceived as a threat.

After the striking incident of the suspension of a hijab-wearing flight attendant from Tunisair in 2015, the then-Minister of Transport declared that the hijab reduces hearingby 30 percent, putting the lives of passengers in danger.

While the justifications switch from safety, national security and hygiene to health concerns, the Tunisian state continues a decades-long tradition of internalised Islamophobia and remains quick to pursue policies that target Islamic practices first and foremost.

Source: Tunisia has a problem with internalised Islamophobia

Why Is Europe So Islamophobic? The attacks don’t come from nowhere.

Of note, but article is too dismissive of the impact of Islamist-inspired extremism and terrorism on public opinion and political reactions:

We live in a time of Islamophobia.

In February, two violent attacks on Muslims in Europe, one in Hanau in Germany, the other in London, took place within 24 hours of each other. Though the circumstances were different — the attacker in Hanau left a “manifesto” full of far-right conspiracy theories, while the motivations of the London attacker were less certain — the target was the same: Muslims.

The two events add to a growing list of violent attacks on Muslims across Europe. In 2018 alone, France saw an increase of 52 percent of Islamophobic incidents; in Austria there was a rise of approximately 74 percent, with 540 cases. The culmination of a decade of steadily increasing attacks on Muslims, such figures express a widespread antipathy to Islam. Forty-four percent of Germans, for example, see “a fundamental contradiction between Islam and German culture and values.” The figure for the same in Finland is a remarkable 62 percent; in Italy, it’s 53 percent. To be a Muslim in Europe is to be mistrusted, visible and vulnerable.

Across the Continent, Islamophobic organizations and individuals have been able to advance their agenda. Islamophobic street movements and political parties have become more popular. And their ideas have been incorporated into — and in some instances fed by — the machinery of the modern state, which surveils and supervises Muslims, casting them as threats to the life of the nation.

From the street to the state, Islamophobia is baked into European political life.

This has been nearly 20 years in the making. The “war on terror” — which singled out Muslims and Islam as a civilizational threat to “the West” — created the conditions for widespread Islamophobia. Internationally, it caused instability and increased violence, with the rise of the Islamic State in part a consequence. Domestically, in both Europe and the United States, new counterterrorism policies overwhelmingly targeted Muslims.

In Britain, for example, you are 150 times more likely to be stopped and searched under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act — a draconian piece of legislation that allows people to be stopped at ports without “reasonable suspicion” — if you are of Pakistani heritage than if you are white. And then there are policies that in the name of “countering violent extremism” focus on the supposed threats of radicalization and extremism. In place across Europe, including in the European Union, such policies expand policing and counterterrorism to target the expression of political ideologies and religious identities. In practice, Muslims are treated as legitimate objects of suspicion.

In this setting of suspicion, a network of organizations and individuals preaching about the “threat” of Islam has flourished. Known as the “counter-jihad movement,” it exists as a spectrum across Europe and America of “street-fighting forces at one end and cultural conservatives and neoconservative writers at the other,” according to Liz Fekete, the director of the Institute of Race Relations. In Europe, groups like Stop Islamization of Denmark and the English Defense League have been central to fostering violence against Muslims.

In America, the relative absence of grass-roots, street-based groups is more than made up for by the institutional heft of the movement — its five key organizations include Middle East Forum and the Center for Security Policy — and its proximity to power and influence. The movement is funded by what the Center for American Progress calls the “Islamophobia network,” with links to senior figures in the American political establishment. The movement has successfully popularized the association of Muslims with an external “terrorist threat,” of which President Trump’s so-called Muslim ban is a prime expression.

What’s more, far-right parties built around Islamophobia and the politics of counter-jihad have become electorally successful. Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the Sweden Democrats and the Alternative for Germany have in the past few years become major parties with substantial support. And their ideas have bled into the rhetoric and policies of center-right parties across Europe.

Successive center-right political leaders have repeatedly warned against “Islamist terrorism” (Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany) and the incompatibility with European values of “Islamist separatism” (President Emmanuel Macron of France). The banning of forms of Muslim veiling in various public spaces — from the hijab ban in French schools and restrictions for teachers in some parts of Germany to an outright ban of the face-covering niqab in public spaces in Denmark, Belgium and France — shows how anti-Muslim sentiment has moved comprehensively from society’s fringes to the heart of government.

Britain has led the way. In 2011, it expanded the scope of its counterextremism policy, known as Prevent, to include “nonviolent” as well as “violent” manifestations. The change can be traced to the neoconservative elements of the counter-jihad movement: It was successful lobbying by Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion (now part of the Henry Jackson Society), both widely regarded as neoconservative think tanks, that secured it. The expansion of the scope of these policies effectively turns schoolteachers, doctors and nurses into police operatives — and any Muslim into a potential security threat.

In Britain, we can see a vicious circle of Islamophobia, replicated in some form across Europe. The state introduces legislation effectively targeting Muslims, which in turn encourages and emboldens the counter-jihad movement — whose policy papers, polemics and protests propel the state to extend legislation, all but criminalizing aspects of Muslims’ identity. The result is to fan Islamophobic sentiment in the public at large.

The way such an atmosphere gives rise to violence is complicated. Anders Breivik, the Norwegian who killed 77 people in 2011, described his massacre as an effort to ward off “Eurabia” — the theory, popularized by Bat Ye’or and fervently taken up by the counter-jihad movement, that Europe will be colonized by the “Arab world.” Likewise, the attacker in Hanau fixated on crime committed by nonwhite immigrants and possessed what the German authorities have called “a deeply racist mind-set.” Both drew from the groundswell of Islamophobic rhetoric that has accompanied policies that single out Muslims for special scrutiny. But both operated alone, and neither maintained links to any organization or party. Their actions were their own.

The line from policy to act, rhetoric to violence, is very hard to draw. And the process by which Islamophobia spreads across European society is complex, multicausal, endlessly ramifying.

But that doesn’t mean it comes from nowhere.

Narzanin Massoumi (@Narzanin) is a lecturer at the University of Exeter in Britain and a co-editor of “What Is Islamophobia? Racism, Social Movements and the State.”

Source: Why Is Europe So Islamophobic?

Raymond de Souza: Canada’s anti-racism strategy needs to redefine Islamophobia

While I don’t read the anti-racism strategy in the same way as de Souza, all religions face similar challenges with respect to the extremists within their ranks and considering what forms of criticism may cross the line between criticizing particular practices and their impact on people, and more general anti-Christian, anti-Islam, anti-Sikhism or anti-Judaism attitudes:

Some time back I was booking a flight and had an option to fly EgyptAir, with a connection in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The times were convenient and the price right. I declined and found another option.

Why? Because I would not want, even as a mere stopover, to be in Saudi Arabia without prior guarantees from the government that I would not be subject to imprisonment or worse because I am a Christian.

If I were made of sterner stuff, I suppose I might welcome the chance to minister as a fellow prisoner to those Filipino and Indian “guest” workers caught praying and thrown into an extra-judicial jail, perhaps never to be heard of again. But I am not, and so opted to give Jeddah a pass.

I opted to give Jeddah a pass

Now is that Islamophobic? I suppose yes, in that I would be afraid for life and liberty because in Saudi Arabia a certain form of Islam is practiced and given sanction by the state. To put it another way, I would be happy to connect in Johannesburg but not Jeddah, and the reason is related to the latter being in an Islamic country.

Yet, I would also be happy to connect in Jakarta, in the world’s most populous Muslim country, so maybe I am not Islamophobic after all. And I would be happy to visit India, where there are more Muslims than in Saudi Arabia.

Is it Islamophobic for a Catholic priest not to stop over in Saudi Arabia? What if there were mechanical problems and we were required to leave the airport to stay overnight in a hotel? In a country where carrying a bible or a rosary can get you thrown into religious jail? Where Catholic priests have to minister incognito, like the worst days of Elizabethan England? Whoops, did I just reveal a latent Anglicanophobia? I might be a simmering cauldron of bigotry.

Of course it’s not Islamophobic. Christians are quite right to be circumspect of Wahhabi Islam as it is practiced in Saudi Arabia and exported to the world in various murderous guises.

All of which is brought to mind by the federal government’s new “anti-racism” strategy. The program grew out of a controversy some years ago over M-103, an anti-Islamophobia motion in Parliament. So the strategy includes an Islam component, perhaps not pro-Islam but at least anti-anti-Islam. It’s aimed at protecting Canadian Muslims from harassment and discrimination.

It’s tiresome to point out that Islam is not a race, despite the government’s determination to treat it like one. It would be possible to harbour prejudice against Arabs and be fiercely pro-Muslim, as the majority of Muslims live east of the Persian Gulf and in parts of Africa, outside the Arab world. But leave the confusion of race and religion for another day.

Islam is a many-differentiated thing. Saudi Wahhabis and Ahmadiyya Muslims in Toronto are not the same

It’s a mistake to treat Islam itself as if it were a monolithic thing, an undifferentiated block approaching two billion people. Islam is a many-differentiated thing. Saudi Wahhabis and Ahmadiyya Muslims in Toronto are not the same.

That’s the problem with the definition of Islamophobia adopted by the anti-racism strategy. It includes “racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling, Islamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level.”

Is it anti-Muslim prejudice to say that all Muslims constitute a security threat? Yes. Is it discrimination to direct acts of hostility toward followers of Islam in general? Yes.

The government’s strategy takes a dim view of any critical look at Islam

But the house of Islam has many rooms, and not all of them are filled with sun-dappled butterflies. The same would be true of Christianity. But it is not bigotry to consider that. For example, while Toronto is proud to host the Aga Khan Museum, it would be rather a different matter to build the Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Museum in Canada.

All religions need critical engagement. In this moment of history, that need is pressing in the world of Islam. Muslims, after all, pay the most lethal price for jihadist violence. Yet the government’s strategy takes a dim view of any critical look at Islam, which would actually put a great number of important Muslim voices offside.

I have profited over the years from many fruitful encounters with Muslims, both in Canada and overseas. Given the type of Muslims who are typically willing to engage in Christian-Muslim encounters, it is quite common to hear complaints about Islamist extremism from them, long before any non-Muslim raises the matter.

It is quite likely that, like many federal strategies, nothing much will be accomplished by this anti-racism strategy. But if it is effective, it should not prevent a critical engagement, theological and otherwise, with the world of Islam, both lights and shadows.

Source: Raymond de Souza: Canada’s anti-racism strategy needs to redefine Islamophobia

Laws that limit religious rights emboldens racists, particularly Islamophobia

Not surprising, but useful confirmation from this latest study on the impact of the ongoing toxic religious symbols debates:

Last week, parliamentary hearings began on Quebec’s Bill 21, which would ban public employees in “positions of authority” from wearing religious symbols. In his testimony, the philosopher Charles Taylor stated that he and Gérard Bouchard were wrong to propose restrictions on religious symbols in their 2008 report on reasonable accommodation.

Taylor affirmed he had been “very naïve” for not foreseeing that such proposals would stigmatize religious minorities and feed intolerance. “The very fact that we were talking about this kind of a plan started to stimulate hate incidents, not just in Quebec but all over,” Taylor said. He added: “I really changed my mind when I saw the consequences of such policies.”

Taylor’s remarks summarize rather well the findings of a research project we recently conducted at McGill University. Our research shows that laws like Bill 21 can have much graver consequences for religious minorities than the specific provisions they entail. Such laws also embolden those who harbour deep-seated xenophobia — specifically Islamophobia — and they therefore intensify minorities’ encounters of hostility and mistreatment.

For our research, we conducted dozens of biographical interviews with Muslim Montrealers to learn about their views and experiences. We asked them how their religion matters in everyday life, and how they evaluate their opportunities in Quebec. Muslims are a diverse group, so we included those who are secular and pious, young and old, professional and working-class.

But despite this diversity, our findings were stunningly cohesive. Virtually all of our interviewees emphasized political campaigns seeking to restrict religious rights — the aftermath of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, the Charter of Values debate in 2013-14, and Bill 62 in 2017 — as major turning points in their lives.

For example, young Muslims born and raised in Quebec report growing up without any strong sense of exclusion — until they experienced the controversy over the Charter of Values as adolescents or young adults. As one young woman put it, “The true colours come out. I think people felt like they were entitled to do things that they wouldn’t normally do because the government was supporting it.”

During her work at a bank, she said, “People were openly telling me to go home, to go back to my country, refusing that I help them at the bank, because I was wearing a hijab.”

Many of the people we spoke with reported similar incidents, which left them shocked, confused, and ultimately alienated. Suddenly, these men and women had to re-evaluate their relationships, consider what an angry look on the subway might mean, and what that passing pedestrian might have muttered under his breath. The young woman tersely summed it up: “It kind of left a bitter feeling.”

Such experiences fundamentally change people. We spoke to a woman who stopped wearing the hijab in public after an irate woman told her, “You just know how to bring kids into the world, but you are like cows” as she was out for a walk with her baby daughter.

We spoke to a man who converted to Islam, but who keeps his religion a secret so that it does not endanger his professional career.

Others responded in the opposite fashion — proudly proclaiming their religious identities even in the face of adversity. But their lives, too, were negatively affected insofar as they now felt they had to be ready, at a moment’s notice, to defend their religion.

Just like prior laws that aimed to limit religious rights, Bill 21 emboldens those who hate or fear Muslims. There may not be many such people, but it seems that there are enough to make life miserable for Muslims and sometimes even endanger them.

According to Statistics Canada, this is not an issue confined to Quebec. Latest figures suggest that police-reported hate crimes reached an all-time high across the country in 2017, with those against Muslims demonstrating the greatest increase compared to the previous year.

In this social context, politicians have to recognize that their campaigns and policies, even beyond the letter of the law, have broad and immediate consequences for how religious minorities are viewed and treated. Political campaigns can indeed “create a really frightful climate,” as Taylor cautioned in his parliamentary address.

Source: Laws that limit religious rights emboldens racists, particularly Islamophobia