A recent study revealed North American networks that influence and fund Islamophobia "has become a transnational sector" as the "industry," with access to over $1.5 billion in funding, foment Islamophobic fear and moral panic in the United States.
Jasmin Zine, a Canada-based professor of Sociology, Religion and Culture, and the Muslim Studies Option at Wilfrid Laurier University mapped these political, ideological, institutional, and economic networks in a four-year study.
In a 127-page report published recently, Zine and her team concluded that at least 39 U.S.-based organizations coordinate the market. A 2016 study concluded that this network was financed by 1,096 charitable institutions between 2014 and 2016 through donor-advised funds (DAF), giving them access to over $1.5 billion.
Zine's latest publication, titled "The Canadian Islamophobia Industry: Mapping Islamophobia’s Ecosystem in the Great White North," also examined strategies employed by Islamophobia agents and highlighted the ties among players within the Islamophobia industry.
It also created profiles of key public figures, media outlets, and organizations that produce and distribute Islamophobic ideologies and propaganda, while identifying the dominant Islamophobic discourses that circulate through these networks.
The study cites a 2011 report to define the Islamophobia network in America as a web of so-called experts, academics, institutions, grassroots organizations, media outlets and donors who manufacture, produce, distribute, and mainstream an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims.
"Islamophobia networks are transnational. They're not just in Canada or the United States. A lot of funding for this industry comes from the U.S., and some of the studies there show it's a $1.5 billion market in total. Some of this support is promoting anti-Islamic propaganda," Zine told Anadolu Agency (AA).
She further noted the transnational ties among actors influencing Islamophobia in Europe and elsewhere, adding that such ties also "strengthen the power of these networks and allow them to spread their disinformation and misinformation far more widely."
According to the study, there are 300 White nationalist groups across Canada today, up from 130 in 2015.
Promoting Islamophobia is a core mandate for some of these Canada-based groups, such as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA), Soldiers of Odin, and the Canadian Infidels, etc.
All these groups "engage in public rhetoric against Islam and Muslims, prominently promoting anti-Muslim narratives in their social media posts and on their websites," according to the report.
Zine identified these "media outlets" are one of the major actors in the "Islamophobia industry." She said the "media outlets and Islamophobia influencers" in Canada contribute to "far-right media forums and use social media platforms to professionalize and monetize their propaganda and bigotry."
She explained that the far-right, white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups are the "foot soldiers" of the "Islamophobia industry," actively promoting anti-Muslim hate online and through public protests and demonstrations.
"Soft-power groups ... leverage influence by promoting anti-Muslim campaigns to achieve specific political, ideological, and religious goals that drive Islamophobic subcultures," she added.
They also "engage in coercive tactics such as bullying, harassment, and intimidation to silence those who oppose them."
These ideological purveyors espouse conspiracy theories about Canadian Muslim organizations serving as a Trojan horse for Islamist groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood whom they see as having an agenda of global domination.
Then there are "native informers," who are "Muslim dissidents and ex-Muslims who play the role of authoritative interlocutors, creating and validating Islamophobic narratives and conspiracy theories."
"They provide the 'political cover' for Islamophobic campaigns," she said.
The two other major actors are "think tanks and designated security experts" and "political figures and influencers."
Think tanks and designated security experts "create a 'cult of expertise' to promote Islamophobic conspiracy theories that brand Muslims as potential radicals and national-security threats," according to the report.
On "political figures and influencers," the report said: "the players in the Islamophobia industry are strengthened and enabled by politicians who authorize Islamophobic narratives and policies that promote anti-Muslim sentiments as part of the wider ecosystem that primes the ground for Islamophobic racism to take root and spread."
Zine stressed that "the industry is a term that's been used to represent the orchestrated organized nature of Islamophobia groups that have come together and are working in concert to orchestrate controversies to create propaganda to organize campaigns that promote Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism."
Noting that the Canadian Islamophobia industry has taken root in the country, Zine said that such industry has resonance in Canada such as some policies "that promote Islamophobia like Bill 21 in Quebec, which, you know, prohibits religious attire in the public sphere that has specifically targeted Muslim women security policies that through which Muslims have been considered potential radicals and terrorists."
"These policies and practices lead to an environment where Islamophobia can take root. We've seen in Canada the deadly consequences of this when we look at Jan. 29, 2017 attack on a mosque in Quebec City, and then last year 2021 on June 6, the attack in London, Ontario, that killed four members of the Pakistani Canadian Muslim family, who were out for a walk when evening and were mowed down by a truck and both of these attacks took place at the hands of white nationalists," she added.
Zine noted that she will attend the International Islamophobia Conference to be held by Ibn Haldun University in June 2023 in Istanbul and present her report there as well.