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The far-right and Islam

Sid Lacombe

June 20, 2023
At a recent confrontation in Ottawa, far-right bigots attempted to protest a number of schools supporting 2SLGBTQ+ rights. They were met by hundreds of counter protestors who stood in solidarity with the students and shut the haters down.
The event was a victory for solidarity - the far-right groups didn’t get the chance to disrupt school activities as planned but there are a host of new questions that have been thrown up in the wake of the events.
One question concerns how to respond to the group of Muslim community members who joined with the far right. There are videos circulating that show young Muslim children stomping on pride flags and there are now reports of further potential protests including the Muslim groups. There have already been similar events in Calgary and another in Ottawa led by Muslim community groups. 
Unsurprisingly, the bigots are using the footage to show that they are a welcoming group - open to all people, races and faiths. This helps them to hide their white supremacist roots and dulls any criticism of their actions. 
But these are the same far-right groups that have exploited anti-Muslim sentiment to build their base. We on the left and in the solidarity movements need to be clear on both what is both behind this phenomenon and what we can do to stop it.
History of Islamophobia and the far-right
Islamophobia is a central pillar in the foundation of the far-right in Canada and has been for many decades. Many of the groups that are now pivoting to protest Drag Queen Story Time (DQST) and more broadly, 2SLGBTQ+ events built their base on the demonization of Muslims.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the US we saw an uptick in Nazi activity across the country. They saw the whip-up of anti-Muslim hatred as an opening to try and recruit and build a base.
They were pushed back, not only because of anti-fascist organizing in the neighbourhoods that they were targeting but also because of the mass anti-war movement that developed between 2001 and 2003 against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Anti-war activists rightly identified Islamophobia as a key ideological tool for the Imperialists so the anti-war movement centred their activity on both stopping the war and confronting anti-Muslim hate.
Crucially, there were new inroads built between the anti-war left and the Muslim community suffering from the worst impacts of the war frenzy that had been whipped up. At one point the right started to refer to the antiwar movement as the Sharia-Bolsheviks.
Those developments would be slowed by the decline of the anti-war movement and by a concerted effort by the media, politicians and their right wing supporters to drive a wedge into this burgeoning unity.
Stephen Harper and his trusted aide Jason Kenney spearheaded the effort but many Conservative and Liberal politicians followed suit. They began spending more time at Mosques and Islamic centres across the country trying to build a base by appealing to certain sections of the community with more right wing ideas on social policy. In Ontario, local MPPs developed a campaign against same sex marriage, for example, which was promoted and pushed at the very same Islamic institutions that had joined with the left to oppose war. 
At the same time the Canadian state fabricated stories of the threat of Islamic terrorism and used billions of dollars to entrap many Muslims across the country in made-up terror cases. 
There are many examples of how his was done - from Project Thread- which accused 19 students from Pakistan of being an Al-Qaeda terror cell without a shred of evidence, to the Canada Day bombers- whose conviction was overturned because of gross violations of law to the Toronto 18case which used a CSIS informant to build a terror case where none existed.
This process of wooing potential Muslim voters with the most reactionary politics while simultaneously attacking vulnerable Muslims with terror accusations was calculated to isolate Muslim groups that were finding a political voice and to sow confusion in the general working class population.
The Canadian state also used the pretext of the ‘war on terror’ to implement vast new policing and spying powers. Stephen Harper in an interview said that the greatest threat to world peace was ‘Islamicism’ - further whipping up Islamophobia. 
Others in his party tried to push the conservatives further to the right by further demonizing Muslims. Kellie Leitch, a candidate for the Tory party proposed a ‘Barbaric cultural practices hotline’ which was designed to target Muslims.
All of this provided the far-right with ample fodder to feed their base and they focussed almost exclusively on pushing Islamophobia.
After the election of Donald Trump in the US, the far-right was feeling bold and began organizing rallies at City Hall in Toronto in January 2017. The main call from the bigots was to stop motion 103, which called to "condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”.
The bigots jumped on this motion and began a campaign of disinformation. They argued that the law would result in an inability to criticize Islam and that it would force the adoption of Sharia law in Canada. The motion was about none of those things and on top of that it was non binding. But the far right did grow by lying about it.
Those far-right forces also joined with sections of the pro-Israel movement in Canada, particularly the Jewish Defence League - a listed terror group in the US - to attack Palestinian rights as well as Muslims.
Islam and Imperialism
The use of Islamophobia has always been about the needs of the Imperial powers. The strategic significance of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia has resulted in constant Western interference in the region. NATO countries, led by the US have sponsored coups and invaded any country that does not comply with the orders of the Imperialists.
The massive oil reserves are part of the motivation but the key strategic location in between the NATO powers and the rivals in Russia and China is also central.
This interference has always led to NATO support for some of the most reactionary regimes and forces in the area. For example, the Imperial powers from the UK to the US have always boosted the reactionary politics of the Saudi regime to divide and conquer in the region. They calculate that as long as the sectarians are in power it will stop the possibility of Muslim or Pan-Arab forces from coalescing into a unified anti-Imperial force.
Unfortunately, some of the far-right politics of these governments spills over into the diaspora.
Religion and reactionary politics
This is not an issue with Islam specifically — it is a constant in every religion. The far-right Islamophobes in Toronto were often joined by right wing Hindutva ideologues tied to the right wing BJP government of Narendra Modi in India. Like the JDL, these groups are trained at a young age to hate Muslims - usually to meet the needs of both a domestic ruling class and the Imperial powers.
Likewise, Christianity has many threads that run from the far-right evangelical movements which are the base of the new attacks on 2SLGBT+ people to the left movements of the liberation theologists. It is common to see religious figures on both sides of the demonstrations at the events today, advocating for very different positions.
These vast differences within religions develop because of the material conditions that their practitioners are present within and the political forces that use that context to maintain power. The liberation theologists moved left because they were immersed in movements against Imperialism. 
We see the same process pushing religious followers to the right. The far-right in Israel is funded and supported by the Christian right in the US and so on.
The Western Imperialists were the first to enforce anti-2SLGBTQ+ rules in their colonial possessions as a part of a larger divide and conquer strategy and western evangelicals fund anti-2SLGBTQ+ groups around the world.
What does this mean for today?
So, it isn’t Islam specifically that needs to be addressed here. It is the larger right wing trajectory of our society and the impacts of Imperialism that are behind this phenomena. 
We must not let this situation be used to build Islamophobia. In fact, we need to redouble our efforts against all forms of hate from Islamophobia to anti-semitism. When the far-right forces are through with the Muslim groups that they now hide behind, they will turn on them with a renewed vigour and we need to stop that too as we did in the early years of the anti-war movement.
The broader Muslim community is not responsible for the position of one small group and we need to remember that to avoid setting up a situation where the demonization could spread. The Muslim ‘community’ is as diverse as any other with lots of different ideas on offer. 
White people are never asked to answer for the actions of others of their own race - despite the fact that they are responsible for the vast majority of violent crime in our society. We cannot ask that of a marginalized group. To do so would only build more racism.
Crucially, we need to build the biggest possible movement to defend the rights of 2SLGBTQ+ people. Small groups of people from different religions or political trends will be brought into the orbit of the far right. In the current context that is inevitable. The way to stop it is to build a movement large enough that there is no appeal to joining the right at all - regardless of which group you may belong to. We need to sap the ability of the right to find any hearing in any community and that includes, unions, schools, faith groups or in our neighbourhoods.
Muslims are not responsible for the rise of the far-right in Canada. Those responsible are the oil and gas industry players that built and funded the entire convoy movement and the Canadian state which uses racism and religious intolerance to divide the population and weaken resistance to their aim of maximizing profits. Our tasks are to organize against the bigots and to build a movement that can challenge the ruling class at the same time. 
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