The recent murder of a Muslim family in Canada by a terrorist belonging to the far-right renewed protests demanding practical measures to curb hate crimes against Muslims.
The demonstrations engulfed 11 cities, including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, as well as Calgary, Edmonton, and Kitchener, in addition to London, Ontario, which witnessed the crime. However, although demonstrations against hate crimes targeting Muslims are frequent, in the last few years Muslims have suffered in an unprecedented way from racism in Canada, the US, and Europe.
These demonstrations [in Canada] are the first of their kind that try to address the problem from its roots, calling for the inclusion of far-right parties to the list of terrorist parties.
In fact, the surge of Islamophobia in North America and Europe has been linked with the growing popularity of the radical right. Statistics tell us that hate crimes against Muslims in Canada grew 253% from 2012 to 2015.
It got even worse as police-reported general hate crimes shot up by 50% in 2017, reaching a new all-time high. Also, hate crimes targeting US Muslims rose 15% in 2017, while statistics for European countries, such as Germany and France, do not differ from these horrific rates.
However, the Western media always intensely highlights the terrorist acts carried out by terrorist organisations in the Middle East, such as ISIS, and deliberately ignores highlighting the terrorist acts carried out by the extreme right in Europe.
Western media also deliberately avoid highlighting the relationship between the inciting political discourse of extreme right-wing parties, and the rise of Islamophobia and brutal hate crimes against Muslims.
This is especially related to the Counter-Jihad Movement that emerged In the wake of growing anti-Muslim bigotry following the 11 September attacks, and work through North America and Europe under the umbrella organisation, Stop Islamisation of Europe.
Whilst claiming to be a human rights organisation promoting free speech, it regularly disseminates anti-Muslim narratives which link all Muslims to terrorism, as well as a host of other anti-Muslim myths.
The far-right also include diverse movements with different factions ranging from right-wing “populist” mass parties to neo-Nazi terrorists. Of course, there is sharp disagreement over the main issues such as attitudes toward Jews, violence, and general strategy.
However, what unites all these parties is the exclusionary nationalist politics built on the promotion of a homogeneous national society. Accordingly, they are all xenophobic to varying degrees, and criticise those who seek to undermine the nation, whether racially or culturally – in their own words.
These extremist groups entered the world of politics only in recent years when the early 1990s witnessed the remarkable and unexpected successes of the so-called far-right parties – or what is sometimes called the radical or populist far-right parties.
They have also witnessed a clear rise in all Western countries, whether in the election of local governorates or parliamentary and presidential elections. Most importantly, these parties have already managed to create a kind of chaos within European political systems, as traditional right-wing parties are now forced to cooperate with far-right parties to achieve a stable majority.
This is after these parties were completely rejected in all parliaments. For example, when the Austrian extremist party, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) managed in 1999 to enter parliament, the European response was a diplomatic boycott.
Thus, for these parties to win the voter’s trust, they resorted to a different type of political discourse. These rely on critiquing the economic and social policies of Western democracies, declaring hostility to foreigners, rejecting cultural pluralism, and claiming to defend national identity.
That is why these parties have taken innocent Muslims as scapegoats to achieve popularity among the electorate under the guise of defending liberal values, freedom of expression, and women’s rights.
The irony is that all of this was done with wide support from the media, so that the discourse of hostility against Muslims appeared socially and politically acceptable. Indeed, we are living in an age where radical right politics is becoming increasingly ‘mainstreamed’, impacting more people’s lives than at any point since World War II.
This is despite the risks associated with the increased activity of the radical right, which cannot be ignored as it threatens to poison public discourse, damage social relations, and weaken liberal democracy itself.
The extreme right has begun practicing terrorism and murder in Western societies amid suspicious international silence, and has become a threat to the safe citizens. It is taking the same style as the extremist and terrorist groups in the East. More dangerously, both far-right groups in the west and ISIS in the east direct their strikes against Muslims.
While ISIS groups are killing innocent Muslims in the Middle East claiming that they are infidels and atheists, the far-right in Europe is killing innocent Muslims as well, claiming that they are strangers and pose a strong threat to European identity.
This terrorist trend must be deterred as the extreme right and ISIS are two sides of the same coin. Terrorism is not only a problem in the East, but it is also a Western industry that grows and thrives day after day without deterrence. There must be a deterrent to all violations of the rights of Muslims in the West and East. Indeed, Muslim lives matter.
Dr Marwa El-Shinawy, PhD in American Theatre and member of the Higher Committee for the Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre