‘Why don’t they just work harder?’ This kind of anti-Blackness is prevalent in Chinese-Canadian communities. It’s time to address it

A good reminder that racism, discrimination and prejudice exist among all communities.

One of the positive changes under former Minister Jason Kenney was to broaden the discussion from a white/visible minority quasi-dichotomy to an understanding and appreciation of tensions and issues between visible minority groups, not just with the white majority. Shree Paradkar’s makes comparable points (Star ColumnistsDear brown people: I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough loveJun. 28, 2020):

The idea that we live in a happy multicultural mosaic is one of Canada’s boldest lies.

Vote-thirsty politicians constantly dog-whistle at emboldened white supremacists on the Canadian fringe. Institutions across the board are being exposed for mistreatment and neglect of racialized voices. Not even Parliament escapes scrutiny as Canadians saw footage of Jagmeet Singh, the NDP’s brown and turbaned leader, getting kicked out of the House for calling out racism.

But the problem doesn’t lie exclusively with white people. Rather, it has long metastasized into communities of colour that internalize discrimination in order to spew it at groups they see as inferior — usually Black Canadians.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in parts of the Chinese Canadian community, of which I’m a proud member. While covering the election last fall, I ventured into neighbourhoods in Toronto filled with individuals of Chinese descent who, aside from the usual headaches over money, health care, or employment, were worried about “illegal border crossers” making their way onto their streets. They were clearly being fed that language by right-wing campaigners, but the pervasive fear showed how easy it is to capture people of colour with narratives that, though often rooted in racist untruths, galvanize a sense of superiority vis-à-vis those who “don’t belong.”

Which brings us to the question of anti-Blackness in communities of colour. I think it’d be hard to find a young person of Chinese descent in Canada who can’t recount at least one instance of hearing an older member of their family repeat a well-worn anti-Black trope. It might not be routine dinner conversation, but it happens all the time. Slogans of underclass ideology are robotically repeated: “Why don’t they just work harder?” “Black parents have a problem raising their kids the right way.” Or the popular, “I came to this country with [insert small dollar amount]; don’t talk to me about discrimination!” And so on.

Part of the problem is internalizing an implicit hierarchy based on race that only gets reinforced by “model minority” ideals in a country that operates on white normality.

This leads to envious worship of those above you in the arbitrary ethnoracial hierarchy, along with contempt or fearful hatred of those who you think can’t get to your level. The latter have always tended to have darker skin.

More optimistic activists may suggest that common experiences of discrimination should lead to people of different races (and from all walks of life) to automatically form political and social solidarity. Or that they naturally amount to a tangible political constituency because they all faced racism at some point. This is a naive assumption, even for people within the same race, which makes the current Black Lives Matter moment — spurred by the death of George Floyd — a valuable wake-up call.

Now more than ever is an opportunity for communities of colour, including the Chinese community, to question how their racist bias affects the world around them and why there’s such widespread anger among the Black community. It’s an uphill battle for progressive community organizations like the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), which have a history of advocacy against racism that extends into the COVID-19 era of anti-East Asian discrimination.

Their battle today will have to be led by youth, who have an opportunity to extend the broader conversation of racial and social justice into their neighbourhoods and, perhaps more importantly, into their homes.

Much of this comes down to genuine progressive engagement with newcomers — a task that, in contrast to years-long forays by Canada’s conservative right, the political left is only beginning. The current opening to speak candidly about race and racism can help fill that vacuum, but only if civil society steps in on the ground level. Young people will, again, likely have to do the work of communicating, and even translating, to those who are unfamiliar with progressive narratives or vocabulary in an intelligible fashion.

In any case, the current hold of right-wing tropes and politics on significant swathes of the Chinese Canadian community (some of which have bled into alt-right territory) is not inevitable. The stereotype of wealthy, apolitical Chinese buying up land and condos can be challenged by engagement on universal issues of racial justice, among other progressive concerns.

It is necessary work for any era, but our time is one of fascist revanchism compounded by a pandemic and economic stagnation. More understanding between communities can be one of the few antidotes if collective solidarity leads to tangible successes in creating more equity in our institutions and accountability in our centres of power toward racialized people.

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

How is Islam represented on the BBC? And in the New York Times

With respect to the BBC:

What the study showed is that the BBC news tends to reproduce dominant discourses about Islam, partly as a result of news-gathering and production processes. For example, there has been significant criticism of its use of extreme news sources, such as Anjem Choudary, on its flagship news programme Newsnight. However, due to its remit as a PSB, it is required to listen to audiences, and this is sometimes evident in its news reporting – where it has more recently included a wider range of Muslims voices and has been more careful in its use of language.

We were able to demonstrate that, when you step outside the news format, with its extensive focus on conflict and terrorism, there is evidence of more diversity. Sometimes, the BBC makes a point of including Muslims in programming unrelated to Islam such as Eastenders and The British Bake Off. Aaqil Ahmed has continued to commission series that challenge dominant tropes about Islam; Make me a Muslim (2014), Welcome to the Mosque (2015) and Britain’s Muslims Soldiers (2016).

But there is a long way to go. News images of Islam continue to dominate media coverage, and are more likely to be reproduced than the niche programming described here. The last BBC Annual Report (2015) showed a reduction in hours dedicated to religious broadcasting; given that 5% of references to religion came from within this despite only accounting for 1% of airtime, it clearly remains a significant resource for representations of religion.

Some commentators have suggested that, due to media fragmentation which has seen the BBC’s share of the audience drop in recent years, media representation no longer matters, particularly as younger people watch less and less television and consume distinct, personalised services. But the BBC has an influence beyond its television broadcasting and immediate audience. As a PSB, it has a responsibility to reflect national culture(s) and minority interests. And in an era of increased commercialisation and privatisation, it does this better than most providers.

Source: How is Islam represented on the BBC? | openDemocracy

By way of comparisons, another study looked  at the New York Times:

The New York Times portrays Islam and Muslims more negatively than cancer, cocaine and alcohol, according to a report that studied the newspaper’s headlines.

“Since 9/11, many media outlets began profiteering from the anti-Muslim climate. Though you could probably trace a similar trend back to the Iranian Revolution,” said Steven Zhou, head of Investigations and Civic Engagement and co-author of the study ‘Are Muslims Collectively Responsible? A Sentiment Analysis of the New York Times.’

“We talk a lot about media and Islamophobia, but nobody has done the math. So, we thought it is long overdue to have a quantitative investigation of an agenda-setting newspaper,” Zhou told the Middle East U.S. Policy watchdog Mondoweiss Friday.

The study, which was conducted by Toronto-based 416 Labs, looked at New York Times headlines from the period 1990-2014. Researchers found that Islam and Muslims were “consistently associated with negative terms,” at least 57 percent of the time, says the study. Only 8 percent of news headlines about Islam/Muslims was positive.

The most frequent terms associated with Islam/Muslims include “Rebels” and “Militant.” None of the 25 most frequently occurring terms were positive.

Compared to all the other benchmarked terms (such as Republican, Democrat, Cancer, Cocaine, Christianity and Alcohol), Islam/Muslims had the highest incidents of negative terms throughout the 25-year period by a long shot. The following were cocaine and cancer, with 47 and 34 percent of their coverage associated with negative terminology.

“When we went into it we didn’t think it would be surprising if Islam was one of the most negatively portrayed topics in the NYT,” says co-author Usaid Siddiqui. “What did really surprise us was that compared with something as inherently negative as cancer, Islam still tends to be more negative.”

The New York Times Presents Islam More Negatively than Cancer and Cocaine