Only Canadian: The Experience of Hate Moderated Differential Citizenship for Muslims

Only Canadian: The Experience of Hate Moderated Differential Citizenship for Muslims

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Publication Date: 5 June 2014

£10 or CA$17 (hard copy) £4 or CA$7 (download) / ISBN: 978-1-909853-00-3 (download) ISBN: 978-1-903718-99-5 (hard copy) / 233mm x 156mm / 216 pages / Islamic Human Rights Commission

Read the Executive Summary at the end of the page

Watch one of the book’s authors, Arzu Merali discuss the book with Derek Conway.  Includes a review from Professor Salman Sayyid, below.

Only Canadian: The Experience of Hate Moderated Differential Citizenship for Muslims provides an assessment and analysis of the hatred and hostility towards Canadian Muslims. Canada’s ingrained prejudices appear to be foundational as evidenced most blatantly by the mistreatment of the First Nations. With this modus operandi of sorts, Canada is stuck in a repetitive cycle that is destined to continue without significant change.

The study pulls back and examines the history of Canada – a nation that perceives itself as a multicultural state – and makes explicit its treatment of First Nations. Even today Aboriginal people continue to be among the most disadvantaged in Canadian society. Tracing the Muslim presence in Canada back to 1871, the study also provides reasons for the recent immigration of Muslims to Canada and examination is made of Muslim identity today ranging from looking at employment to education.

Using case studies, the authors deconstruct the Islamophobia and discursive racism present in Canada. Significant figures in the media are profiled and important laws are scrutinised till the bones of injustice are laid bare for the reader to see. Television, film and press have acted as highly effective vehicles for anti-Islam rhetoric and Muslims have been dehumanised to such an extent that they exist outside of the space where rights are guaranteed to them.

The study’s survey takes into consideration age, religiosity and visible Muslimness as well as income and work status. 10.9% of respondents stated they had experienced physical assault of some sort as a result of religious hatred. While this may be less than other countries surveyed for the project so far, the fact remains that the rate of 1 in every 10 Muslims is still worryingly high. Measuring the levels of intensity of different experiences of hostility, it was found that being stared at by strangers (57.7%) was the most intense. It was followed by hearing or being told an offensive joke or comment concerning Muslim people or about Islam (48.3%). Shockingly the percentage of respondents across the survey who stated they had never had a hate experience was only 2%. Beyond the practice of hate is hate ideology (the study states that the latter leads to the former) and 93.2% of respondents claimed to see ‘negative or insulting stereotypes of Muslims in the media.’

The authors have implemented the Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations – a critical methodology that argues that hate crimes do not occur in a vacuum. Instead an environment must exist such that perpetrators feel justified in acting violently. It places emphasis on structural institutions and this is where the study focuses in regards to its recommendations. The authors thus conclude by providing a number of suggestions that organisations and officials should take into consideration if they are serious about social justice concerns. These include significant changes to Canada’s legal system and its media, recognising how flawed Canada’s self perception is and acknowledging Canada’s historical injustices against indigenous people while also implementing meaningful alteration to policy.

‘Masterfully outlines, with painstaking (and often painful) detail, how the confluence of media, law and policy creates ecology of hatred in Canada. Highly recommended.’

– Yusef Progler, Professor of Comparative Societies and Cultures, Asia Pacific University, Japan, and co-creator of Multiversity, Malaysia and India.

‘The Islamic Human Rights Commission has published over the past years high quality research material mapping Islamophobia in the West. After their excellent publications demonstrating the discrimination Muslims face in the USA, Germany, France, Britain, and Denmark, this new publication bring us the situation of Muslims in Canada. Dr. Saied Reza Ameli and Arzu Merali have been at the forefront of these research projects. Their Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations (DHMIR) proves to be an excellent theoretical model for social research. This new excellently researched publication contributes with an original focus: they frame the racism and hatred towards Muslims in Canada within the context of a Multicultural White Settler State. What Dr. Ameli’s and Merali´s solid researched publication demonstrate is that there is no Muslim problem, but a White supremacist problem in both Canada and the West. ‘Only Canadian’ is a must to read.’

– Ramón Grosfoguel, Associate Professor – Ethnic Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley

‘Saied Reza Ameli and Arzu Merali offer a timely and critical assessment of the Muslim experience in Canada. Drawing upon a national survey of over 400 Muslims, the report highlights that all is not well in the “peaceable kingdom.” In fact, Ameli and Merali document the glaring contrasts between the Canadian rhetoric of multiculturalism and inclusion with the reality of exclusionary practices associated with Islamophobia. Importantly, they contextualise widespread discrimination in the workplace, on the street, in government policy, the media and education within a “hate environment.” They lay bare the enabling elements in Canada – the Charter of Values, and securitisation, for example – that perpetuate the vilification of Muslims. So, too, do they remind us of the harmful effects of these processes, including behavioural change, fear, silencing and marginalisation. This ground-breaking Canadian study also provides a framework for change through a series of sweeping recommendations for popular and political action both from within and beyond the Muslim community.’

– Dr. Barbara Perry, Professor and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada and Honorary Visiting Fellow at the University of Leicester.



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – Only Canadian: The Experience of Hate Moderated Differential Citizenship for Muslims is the fourth in a series that assesses Muslim experiences of hostility and discrimination in Canada.


As well as inspecting Islamophobic and racist acts, the study challenges the accuracy of Canada’s self-perception as a multicultural nation. The report begins by providing a historical-cultural context from the mistreatment of First Nations and develops into a comprehensive evaluation of the demographic, economic, political and social overview of Muslims in Canada. This is followed by the theoretical framework (the Domination Hate Model of intercultural Relations) which considers the progress of a structural hate environment. The authors conclude with recommendations.


The first chapter explores the historical­ cultural background of Canada, examining the significance of the development of Muslim demography and participation in Canadian society. The authors discuss the history of white colonial European settlement of Canada, critique Canada’s self-perception as a multicultural nation and provide an overview of the statistics of Muslim demography with regards to ethnicity, sectarian demography, education, sex and age.


Chapter 2 examines the problem of Muslim or ‘non­white’ assimilation and integration in a society whereby the white ‘host’ society produces a marginalised and demonised dichotomy.


This includes:

‘Muslim schooling’; a battle of Muslim minority acceptance and dealing with cultural differences whilst trying to maintain an Islamic lifestyle.


Gender, whereby Muslim women have difficulties with the attitude of the majority of the population, especially in regards to dress code and the French influence in Quebec, with anti­Muslim rhetoric dressed up in narratives of gender equality and secular values.


Chapter 2 also assesses levels of education, income and discrimination in the workplace’ by which an economic and occupational marginalisation of Muslims is apparent despite high levels of education among Canadian Muslims.


‘Discrimination by law’ focuses on Muslims as the subject of increasingly draconian anti-terrorism measures as well as the experience of Muslims as victims of hate crime and the redress to be found under Canadian law. The authors further discuss securitisation and the law, surveillance and profiling, general statistics of hate crime against Muslims after 9/11, the criminal code of Canada; a critique of the limitations and ineffectiveness of existing anti­hate laws and denied militarisation and torture.


Chapter 3 explores the negative effects of hate representation via media, political, academic and elite discourses on Muslims in Canada as they fall victim to social attitudes and dangerous stereotyping of the ‘majority’ expressed in acts of hatred, hostility, discrimination and violence.


Additionally, this chapter discusses three case studies which assess the extent of Islamophobic rhetoric in the media. Case studies include Ezra Levant, a columnist for the Toronto Sun who published a book directed against the Canadian Khadr family whose son, Omar, was the youngest prisoner to be held at Guantanamo Bay.


Ameli and Merali use the Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations. This critical methodology argues that hate crime does not exist in a vacuum. An environment must exist so that perpetrators feel they have to act aggressively. The analysis is based on the notion of a hate environment created by hate policies and negative representation, resulting in a hated society, the hated society being Muslims and the majority being the hating society.


Demographic overview:

• Respondents were primarily based in the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario (52.5%) and Quebec (27%) in which the hard copies and digital questionnaires were written in English and Quebecois

• The largest group of respondents were Canadian born (32.1%). Migrants were from many different countries, most commonly Pakistan (17.2%) and Saudi Arabia (7.2%).

• Just over half of the respondents were female (51.8%) with male respondents at 45.9% and 2.3% not stating gender

• Most respondents were overwhelmingly young, under 35 (74.4%; 55% were aged between 18 and 30).

• The overwhelming majority of respondents saw themselves as being practising Muslims (71%) or highly practising Muslims (19.5%).

• 76.5% of respondents were visibly Muslim, 18.8% stated they were not visibly Muslim and 0.5% stated they were not Muslim but sometimes mistaken for one.


Respondents considered several categories of negative experiences, distributed over both implicit and explicit forms of discrimination and abuse. For each aspect of experience respondents were offered five options with which to rate the frequency of their experiences within the space of a year, ranging from ‘always’ to ‘never’ and from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. The nature of what has been witnessed is revealed through open-ended questions and ranges from individual acts to systemic Islamophobia in media and political discourse.


Key results are:

• 93.2% of respondents stated that they saw negative or insulting stereotypes of Muslims in the media

• 76.93% of respondents saw negative representation of Muslims in the media

• 73.74% have seen political policies (local or national) that negatively affected Muslim people

• 69.79% of respondents believe ‘politicians do not care about us’

• 68.47% have witnessed politicians philosophise that Muslims are innately problematic

• 66.39% believe discriminatory acts against Muslims are condoned by politicians

• 61.81% have seen policies or practices at work, school or business that excluded or negatively affected Muslim people

• 61.65% have heard Islamophobic comments made in particular by politicians/high-ranking officials

• 56.19% have witnessed/heard Islamophobia directed towards someone else

• 50.77% have been stared at by strangers

• 48.31% have heard or have been told an offensive joke or comment concerning Muslim people or about Islam

• 47.33% have had religious beliefs challenged/denigrated by work colleagues/school/college peers

• 41.61% have been talked down or treated as if they were stupid; have had opinions minimised or devalued; have had others expect them to be less competent

• 41.44% have been treated in an overly superficial manner

• 39% of students experienced discrimination in an educational setting

• 37.51% have been treated with suspicion or have been wrongly accused of something

• 36.52% of respondents have experienced some kind of discrimination but were afraid to complain as they believed no one cares

• 36.41% have been overlooked, ignored or denied service in a shop, restaurant or public office/transport

• 35.05% have experienced job discrimination based on religion

• 32.12% have experienced educational discrimination based on religion

• 10.9% have experienced physical assault


The recommendations proposed are feasible; focusing on institutional and structural spaces to provide immediate results with long-lasting effects. The cycle of silencing minority groups must be broken if Canada is to make a reality of its self-perception as a multicultural tolerant space.

Education: Respondents felt positive about educating non-Muslims and recognised the importance of Muslims themselves receiving education about the Canadian system and making it work for/with them.


Law:The authors provide a brief critique of Canadian law, notably Canada’s anti-discrimination law and also recommend:

– The introduction of anti-discrimination (extant) law training for state institutions including schools and government workspaces

– A need for a more robust legal framework for cases of discrimination

– Providing training to those working in legal institutions about anti-racism.

– A re-evaluation of anti-discrimination as part of the wider working of the law

– Through training and legal sanction, racial and religious profiling should be made objectionable and it needs to be understood that it is a pervasive form of hate crime

– The courts need to recapture their legitimacy as a proper place where justice can be found

– The two tier system of criminal law, where Muslims face extra punishment and denial of basic rights through anti-terrorism legislation and the fear of anti-terrorism laws and policing must end.


Securitisation and foreign policy

Canada’s image as the mouse quaking in the shadow of a sleeping elephant is incorrectly perceived. Canada cannot claim to be meek and tolerant while being involved in the most precarious and belligerent illegitimate enterprises. There is a need to recapture the state of being the ‘mouse’ as that is where Canada’s power lies as opposed to trying to emulate the ‘elephant’ that is the USA.


Acknowledging history

Apologies for injustices are good publicity but meaningless as often they are not bolstered by actual changes. As a result multiculturalism is not a reality for marginalised people. Canada must begin by acknowledging the wrongs, changing policies and implementing meaningful redress.



The authors have expressed a number of feasible implementations and changes to the media such as an outlet of education for the majority and structural modification.

– Utilising the media as a tool for tolerance and impartiality is a project that requires attention. Space can be made for alternative expressions of identity and frames of cultural reference;

– There needs to be a better understanding and acknowledgement of prejudiced representation of minorities;

– Media institutions must self-regulate and reinforce efforts towards checking structural issues;

– Improvement of complaint mechanisms whereby people feel they can criticise general bias and not just blatantly unfair reporting

– Stronger emphasis on standards of professional practice to which individual journalists, columnists and editors in news media can be held accountable, which contain the threat of disciplinary action;



Now is a time to recapture the Canada where everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. The report acknowledges that the term ‘multiculturalism’ can be problematic but thinks it is important in an age where minorities are under attack. This is a dialogue that must be accepted by Canada’s major structural institutions if it is to have any impact.


If policy makers are willing to make these changes, they are sure to find partners from communities that have long been excluded.

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