Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

Subject Positioning, Fear, and Insecurity in South Asian Muslim Communities in the War on Terror Context

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

Subject Positioning, Fear, and Insecurity in South Asian Muslim Communities in the War on Terror Context

Article excerpt


ARABS AND MUSLIMS have been the focus of increased scrutiny and surveillance as part of state antiterrorism policies in Europe, the United States, and in Canada after 9/11 (Bahdi 2003; Fekete 2004; Naber 2006). In North America, the social impact of this security-oriented sociopolitical context on Muslim communities has been severe, as they are subject to suspicion, bias, and negative stereotyping from the state and from members of the host society. The climate of fear and anxiety engendered by the WOT calls into question their sense of belonging and status as citizens (Cainkar 2009) because of the reinforcement of preexisting perceptions of the Muslim Other as violent and dangerous (Razack 2008).

This paper explores the local nuances of this global climate of fear and suspicion in the daily lives of South Asian Muslim communities in Montreal. It argues that the surveillance and security context associated with the WOT has created a social climate of pervasive fear and suspicion which is experienced externally, as well as being internalized by these minority Muslim communities. This fear dynamic transforms the relationship between the targeted minorities and the majority host society, provoking both a protective increase in cohesion and an internalization of distrust. However, the impact of this fear dynamic is modulated by the differences in subject positioning and the relative power of these immigrant groups in Quebec host society.


The legal elements of the security context are centered in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) of June 2002 and the Anti-Terrorism Act (Law C-36) of December 2001, which link together concerns about security, the presence of foreign nationals and immigrants in Canada, and terrorism. The IRPA is geared toward foreign nationals and can be used to deport people who may be considered a security threat to Canada. It also makes the refugee determination process more stringent (Kruger et al. 2004:77). Law C-36 is meant to prosecute, convict, and punish terrorists and terrorism-related activities in Canada. In addition, although terrorism was an important concern for the Canadian government long before 2001, there was increased attention to cooperation with the United States on aviation and border security after 9/11 (Lyon 2006; Whitaker 2003).

The implications of Law C-36 are reflected in concerns about potential discrimination against certain groups. Despite the fact that the law does not specify racial, ethnic, or religious groups in its text, legal scholars argue that the potential for discrimination exists in its implementation (Bhabha 2003; Roach 2002). The discretion given to the police and other bodies by the legislation to determine what constitutes "terrorist activity" and "terrorists" supports racial and religious profiling by these authorities. This will disproportionately target Muslims as a distinct group within Canadian society and further feelings of fear and insecurity in a population that already feels vulnerable in the current sociopolitical climate (Bhabha 2003:120).

Evidence from community organizations and other reports appears to support Bhabha's argument. There are increased incidents of racial]religious profiling of Muslims in Canada, although it is difficult to prove that they are the direct result of Law C-36 since profiling is often done at the discretion of law enforcement officials (Crocker et al. 2007:20; Helly 2004; Nagra 2009). Nevertheless, anecdotal reports within Muslim communities confirm reports by community organizations such as CAIR-Canada (2004) and the People's Commission on Immigration Security Measures (2007) in Montreal about experiences of negative profiling by Arab and Muslim Canadians, both citizens and noncitizens.

These experiences further a sense of insecurity and fear within these communities, augmented by government actions. …

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