The Ontario Human Rights Commission Acknowledges Islamophobic Content in Maclean’s Articles

Canadian law students Muneeza, Sheikh, Naseem Mithoowani, Khurrum Awan and Ali Ahmed, and CIC (Canadian Islamic Congress) president, Dr. Mohamed Elmasry both filed complaints to the Ontario Human Rights Commission about an article, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” (an except from Mark Steyn’s American Alone: THE End of the World as We Know It) appearing in Maclean’s Magazine, a weekly current affairs publication, in October 2006. The article suggested that Muslims pose a threat to North American life. While the Commission stated that this “media coverage has been identified as contributing to Islamophobia and promoting societal intolerance towards Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Canadians,” it announced that it will not proceed with legal action. In Ontario, magazines are not covered under the Human Rights Code. Related complaints against Maclean’s have been filed with the British Columbia and Federal Human Rights Commissions. Its code covers publications. Hearings have been scheduled before the BC Commission from June 2-6, 2008 under s. 7(1) of the BC Human Rights Code, which prohibits publications that subject identifiable communities to hate. The Federal Commission is currently in the process of investigating similar complaints.

Islam, Ethnicity and the Banlieues

The most astonishing thing about the recent riots was the surprise of the media, in France as elsewhere, at this outbreak of violence. For indeed, violence in the suburbs is nothing new. In the 1980s, the suburbs of Paris and Lyon were similarly set aflame. And in November of 2004, the violence of the suburbs broke out in the very heart of Paris when two rival gangs clashed on the Champs Elysées. Nor is the isolation of French youth a new phenomenon. Since the 1981 “rodeo riots” in the Lyon suburb Les Minguettes, social and economic conditions in the suburbs have only deteriorated, despite the often generous funding of urban development projects. It is not sufficient, however, to attribute these outbreaks of violence solely to factors of social and economic marginality. This marginality is exacerbated by a general context of urban degradation: a degradation, furthermore, which affects a very specific sector of the population. That is, the crisis of the banlieues primarily concerns first- and second-generation immigrants from the former colonies of the Maghreb. This population has frequently been treated as a separate case, not only in terms of the history and conditions of immigration, but also in terms of the politics of integration. This constant exclusion results in the fact that the issues of poverty, ethnicity, and Islam tend to be conflated, both in current political discourse and in political practice. The recent violence is but the direct consequence of the constant amalgamation of these three separate issues.