Richmond: Groups use careful language to avoid racist label, but others don’t buy it

1 London

London News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

So a white supremacist, an anti-Islamist and an alt-rightist walks into a bar.

Then he orders a drink.

Get it? It’s all the same guy.

That weak attempt at humour will no doubt anger members of groups espousing anti-Islam and defending what they consider Western values, because they don’t like being lumped together with white supremacists or the alt-right.

The joke, however, will please anti-racists — the same anti-racists who criticized Free Press stories a few days ago for not lumping all the groups together.

That’s the difficulty in Canada, and particularly London this weekend, as an anti-Islam group plans a rally.

How do we know who’s who? How do we dissect the euphemistic language surrounding the latest wave of groups espousing beliefs that challenge Canada’s tolerance for other cultures and faiths?

For several years in the early 2000s, I covered the activities of several white supremacist groups with London connections, such as the Northern Alliance, the Heritage Alliance and Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team.

These groups were blunt about their hatred of Jews, blacks, Muslims, gays, non-Christians — the list was long.

Yet even these groups bristled at being called white supremacists, and complained to the editor of this newspaper about the label.

The more recent groups that have received attention lately, including the host of Saturday’s rally, Pegida Canada, are careful to avoid language that speaks of racism or white supremacy.

They’re quick to call out media outlets, individuals and groups that call them white supremacists,

They’re not racist or white supremacist, these groups say. They are just defending Western culture and values against the spread of Islam.

“They are being very careful in their language. It is all part of a broader attempt to shift the image of the far right,” says Barbara Perry, a social scientist and author on hate crimes at the University of Toronto Institute of Technology.

“The language is part of the new package they are trying to wrap themselves in. They are trying to couch language in ways that are no longer seen as racism.”

The new groups speak not about race, but about culture and values, Perry says. But Perry says make no mistake, the groups are white supremacists.

“It is still about white privilege, white nationalism. I don’t believe there is any difference in the foundation of their beliefs.”

She agrees it can be difficult for Canadians to decode the language and see what lies beneath. It’s up to scholars and media, especially mainstream media, to do that job, Perry says.

“The secret is not to shy away from it.”

Dig into Pegida a bit and you can see Perry’s point.

The official name is Patriots of Canada against the Islamization of the West, an offshoot of European groups.

“Our main premise is to retain Canadian Freedom and democracy, and one of our focal points is Islamization of course,” Pegida Canada told The London Free Press.

On the group’s Facebook page is a surprising outline of the ways members believe Islamization, or the jihad, is taking place.

Population jihad is mass breeding on taxpayers’ dollars to overtake a country. Intellectual jihad involves Muslims fooling everyone by “sweet talk” and pretending Islam is separate from terrorism.

Love jihad — I’m not making this up — involves Muslim men faking love and converting non-Muslim “girls” into sex slaves.

These are parallels to the messages of the Ku Klux Klan and other racists in the 1950s and 1960s — that black men were coming to take white women, Perry says. Stories about Muslims killing babies are shared on social media, just as Nazi Germans told the same stories about Jews, she adds.

The different groups coming to the surface now tout different aims, which can also make it more difficult to understand them, says Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at George Washington University’s program on extremism.

While they might have different origins — far-right, pro-West, anti-refugee, anti-black or anti-Muslim — they are now converging on a perceived common threat — Islam, he says.

He calls the language used — defending culture, eroding culture — a “straw man” than can fool people into thinking the groups are more moderate than they are.

Amarasingam explains how the so-called pro-Western values and fear of Islam are really white supremacy.

If you believe Western values are objectively the best, and you believe whites are responsible for creating those values and culture, then you believe whites are supreme, he points out.

It’s difficult to know how well the strategy and new language are working. There is a large flaw in the use of vague language. That language can be used by anti-racists as well, arguing pro-Western, pro-Canadian values can mean the opposite of what anti-Islam, white supremacy, alt-right groups want.

“For me,” Perry says, “Canadian values are about inclusivity and equity and respect.”

Randy Richmond is a Free Press reporter.

1 London

London News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search



Leave a Reply