Was the ‘Media Silent’ About the Islamic Party of Ontario?

The news media are typically "silent" in cases where there's nothing to report.

  • Published 7 January 2019
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A popular trope among fringe news outlets is the typically false claim that the news media engage in conspiracies to ignore certain political issues. But in the case of a 2 January 2019 Big League Politics article headlined “Media Silent as ‘Islamic Party of Ontario’ Files to Become Official Political Party in Canada,” it’s likely that the news media’s “silence” is actually a case of nothing much to report.

Big League Politics reported that “the Islamic Party of Ontario is a pro-Sharia Muslim party that has a goal of making Islam the dominant legal system of Canada. [Founder Jawed] Anwar reserved the party name with Elections Ontario in October 2018.” This is accurate enough, according to the Islamic Party of Ontario’s “Principles and Policy” page and public records.

But Big League Politics didn’t report that Anwar appears to be the party’s only member and that he has an otherwise low profile which has only been bolstered by recent media attention. That status, coupled with the fact that “Islamic Party of Ontario” isn’t even a registered political organization in the Canadian province, suggests that the threat it allegedly poses is greatly exaggerated. 

In an email responding to questions we sent him, Anwar told us that he meets with a board monthly and he is the elected leader. The group has an anti-LGBT position, according to a blog post Anwar sent us which reads, “It is now that LGBT people and only LGBT people have the right to express their non-biological gender –not the straight people. We, who are born with biological gender with the ID of male and female, have no right now to express our God-given gender. This is liberal fascism.”

According to public records, Anwar has only reserved the party’s name with Elections Ontario, which the agency approved on 9 October 2018. That means the Islamic Party of Ontario is as near to becoming an official political organization in Ontario as the UFO Party, the Fundamentalists United party, and the “Roman Empire.”

Anyone can reserve a name for a potential organization, just as anyone can form a political party. That doesn’t automatically confer clout or power on that organization, columnist and author Michael Coren told us by phone. “It’s not an issue or a threat in any way,” he said.

But that hasn’t stopped such figures as the “notorious right wing” commentator Faith Goldy from attempting to drum up fear by tweeting about the subject in ominous tones to her 116,000 followers:

The Islamic Party of Ontario perhaps first gained infamy when Toronto Sun writer Tarek Fatah alleged in a 1 January 2019 column that Anwar had called him an “open enemy of Islam.”

“An allegation such as the one labelled against me is the equivalent of declaring me an ‘apostate,’ which makes it a duty of other Muslims to kill me and thus secure a place in Paradise for themselves,” Fatah wrote.

Terrible as that might have been, Coren told us that Canada’s Muslim population is very small (only 3.2 percent of the total population) and tends to be one of the most moderate. Before Fatah’s column was published, Anwar had 60 Twitter followers. He now has a grand total of 186, along with 72 “likes” on Facebook. Coren said most of Anwar’s new followers not Muslims but “by and large conservative people.”

Writing for the Canadian political publication iPolitics, Coren observed:

It all seems rather curious and odd, especially since Anwar has publicly and aggressively supported Ontario Premier Doug Ford. It’s also significant that Anwar and his party seem to be largely anonymous within the Muslim community, and when Muslim leaders have been informed about the new organization, they condemn it, not support it …

It’s one thing to expose and condemn the very real threat of genuine Islamist violence, but another to insist that support for such violence is ubiquitous, and to imply that the vast majority of Muslims support it. This is horribly unfair, downright racist, and plays into the hands of the authentic zealots who want to divide society and convince Muslims they’re not welcome in the West. There is nothing new about such politics, and it stinks of the approaches taken by historical despots against various ethnic and religious scapegoats.

Coren compared the hubbub over Anwar’s non-party to a sketch by the British comedy troupe Monty Python called “Election Night Special,” in which the actors frantically track results in a contest between the Sensible Party and the Silly Party. “By the way, in Monty Python’s political parody sketch, the Silly Party and the Very Silly Party split the silly vote,” Coren wrote. “Someone should alert right-wing commentators; it could be a story.”