Islamophobia in the Great White North

Conference Highlights, Panels and Plenary
Race and Ethnicity

Twenty years after the 9/11 attacks and the “war on terror” it is important to take stock of the conditions that have shaped our national context during this period. Islamophobia has continued to impact Canada’s social and political landscape in profound ways. In the past 4 years there have been two terror attacks against Canadian Muslims. The first took place on Jan. 29, 2017 in a Quebec City mosque when a white nationalist gunned down 6 men after evening prayers. The second terror attack took place on June 6, 2021 when a Pakistani Muslim family- targeted because of their faith and identity- were mowed down by truck killing 4 members of the family and leaving an injured nine-year old boy fighting for his life. These horrific incidents are the outcome of Canada’s “home grown” Islamophobia. Since the 9/11 attacks, public opinion polls have demonstrated that most Canadians hold unfavorable views about Islam and Muslims, and many have shown support for policies that would single out Muslims for heightened regulation and monitoring. Increasingly “Islamophobia industries” are organizing and monetizing campaigns of hate. Outside these fringe groups, liberal forms of Islamophobia are part of the political mainstream, where values of equity, diversity, and inclusion are espoused and celebrated, yet at the same time, policies and practices are enacted that target Muslims as suspect and illiberal minorities further authorizing and normalizing Islamophobia.

This panel will address how anti-Muslim racism has manifest in Canada and created the social, political, and cultural breeding ground for violence and hate. Panelists will examine the context of racial secularism and gendered Islamophobia in Quebec; the racial securitization of Muslims as “suspect citizens” and how the 9/11 generation of millennial Muslim youth have navigated the fraught conditions under which their faith and identity have come under siege.


Abdie Kazemipur, University of Calgary and Canadian Sociological Association President

Panelists and Presentations:

Leila Benhadjoudja, University of Ottawa

Distinct Society, Distinct Islamophobia: The Legacy of the French Colonial Regime in Quebec

Immediately after the attack on the Quebec Mosque by a white Quebecois man in 2017 which killed six Muslim men, the provincial legislature adopted laws on secularism that clearly targeted Muslim women (Bill 62 and Bill 21). These laws followed more than a decade of public debate about Muslims, the veil, and the incompatibility of Islam with the Quebec nation. During these debates, white francophones claimed to be threatened by Islam and feared the “return of the religious.”In this paper, I will show how secularism in Quebec operates as a colonial technology by allowing Quebec to reaffirm its French colonial past while also fighting against “Anglo domination.” To do so, I suggest a critical analysis of Quebec’s praxis on secularism (particularly Bill 62 and Bill 21), showing that this praxis doesn’t serve to separate religion from the state. Rather, secularism is a sexual and racial project that aims to discipline Muslims and protect Catholicism as colonial tool. I demonstrate that the concept of religion is intrinsically linked to colonialism in Quebec. Therefore, as soon as the religious argument emerges, race is at stake.

Baljit Nagra, University of Ottawa and Paul Maurutto, University of Ottawa

Radicalized or Racialized?: Canadian Muslim communities leaders response to the securitization of Muslim youth in the “War on Terror.

Increasingly, state security agencies have used the notion of ‘radicalization’ in order to justify the targeting of Muslim Communities in the never ending “War on Terror”.  In this paper, we utilize 95 interviews with Muslim community leaders in Canada to better understand the impact of ‘radicalization’ models on Muslim communities in Canada. In this paper, we explore how Canadian Muslim leaders have responded to this securitization of Muslim youth. We find that Muslim communities respond to the notion of radicalization in complex ways. While some Muslim community leaders resist this notion of radicalization many do accept in some ways. Internalizing racialized security narratives about their youth and trying to legitimize their organizations by winning the goodwill of state security agencies may be tied to this acceptance of the radicalization model. Ultimately, our research points to how surveillance tactics bifurcate and disrupt Muslim communities.

Jasmin Zine, Wilfrid Laurier University

Islamophobia and the 9/11 Generation

The 9/11 attacks in the United States and the subsequent global ‘war on terror” along with domestic security policies in western nations has impacted the lives of young Muslims whose identities and experiences have been shaped within and against these conditions. The millennial generation of Muslim youth who have come of age during these turbulent times have not known a world before the aftermath and backlash surrounding these events.

How do the Muslim youth of the 9/11 generation negotiate their identities during times when the politics of war and terror shape popular understandings of who they are and how others perceive them? How do these discourses constitute Muslim youth as post-9/11 subjects, and how do they respond to this ontological positioning? How are the affective registers of Islamophobia configured?

The war on terror has become a lived experience not just a geopolitical construct.  This paper explores the impact of these global and domestic conditions on how the 9/11 generation of Canadian Muslim youth navigate and make sense of their lives and the changing world around them.  This presentation draws from a six -year national qualitative study featuring in-depth interviews with 130 Canadian Muslim youth, religious leaders, and youth workers.

The 9/11 generation of Muslim millennials is a product of its times. As we mark the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it is important to examine how the global war on terror and heightened anti-Muslim racism have affected a generation who were socialized into a world where their faith and identity are under siege.

Organizer: Jasmin Zine, Wilfrid Lauier University