Why does Jason Kenney refuse to say “Islamophobia”?

In a recent analysis of Jason Kenney’s tweets, I found a significant discrepancy between how he uses the words “antisemitism” and “Islamophobia”.

Last week, Jason Kenney, premier of Alberta, tweeted that he had met with several leaders of Jewish community organizations within Alberta to discuss reports of “unprecedented levels of antisemitic threats” within the province.

I’ve seen him call out antisemitism in the past on Twitter, and I was curious how many times he’s done so. So I decided to look into it.

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I searched for the tweets containing at least one instance of the words semitic, antisemitic, semitism, and anti-semitism that were tweeted out by Kenney’s account. Then I counted them all up. I included only those in my count that specifically reference the idea of antisemitism: hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews.

From what I could tell, between 28 February 2009 and 24 May 2021, there were 126 tweets where Kenney specifically mentioned the idea of antisemitism, either opposing antisemitism to some degree or acknowledging the work of others in opposing antisemitism broadly.

Here’s how they break down by year:

The day I was researching this article, a story developed about road rage incident in Calgary in which one driver hurled profanities and Islamophobic insults at another driver, struck the victim’s vehicle with his hands several times, and broke off the windshield wipers.

You can read more about that incident on the City of Calgary website.

But given Kenney’s recent response to antisemitism in Alberta, I was curious about how his tweets about antisemitism compared to his tweets about Islamophobia.

So, I conducted a similar search, this time focusing on the terms Islamophobia and Islamophobic. I also included Muslim, Islamic, Islamist, and Islam to catch any other tweets.

I found 16.

None of them occurred prior to 2016, and half of them occurred in 2016 alone.

Last December, a man attacked two Black Muslim women in Edmonton in the parking lot of a mall. A few days later, a woman attacked a third Black Muslim woman at an LRT station near that same mall. This past March, a woman attacked 2 Muslim teens in Calgary.

One source claims that between 2006 and 2019, there had been 304 Islamophobic hate crimes and incidents officially reported. Of those, 56 were in 2017 alone, the highest total in a single year.

It seems odd that given his quickness to respond to antisemitism Kenney would have so few tweets mentioning Islamophobia in Alberta, given its prevalence. As mentioned, there were 56 reported hate crimes targetting Muslims in Alberta in 2017, but Kenney tweeted about Islamophobia only 3 times that year.

Now that isn’t to say he doesn’t tweet about Islamophobia at all when it occurs. For example, here is his response to the man attacking the two Muslim women at the Edmonton mall:

Except, his tweet was sent 3 days after the incident and 2 days after it was reported in the media. It’s notable that he calls the incident “disgusting” and “heinous”, but nowhere does he call it “Islamophobic”. Also, it’s interesting that he called it a hate-motivated crime, rather than just a hate crime.

When a conservative politician in Ontario compared the third wave to Nazi Germany, Kenney lambasted the antisemitism that same day. And called it antisemitism.

Here’s another example:

This tweet was sent out the day after the media reported on this particular hate crime, but once again, nowhere is the word Islamophobia mentioned.

Same goes for this one regarding the LRT incident:

The next day and no mention of the word Islamophobia.

Regarding the incident in the Calgary park, I couldn’t find any tweets from Kenney. However, I did find that he retweeted this tweet shared by Kaycee Madu, the provincial justice minister.

The event is called a “disgusting crime”, but still no mention of “Islamophobia”.

A 2018 arson targetting a mosque in Edson also received a response from Kenney, this time the same day, but still not uttering the word “Islamophobia”.

When there was an attack on a Jewish school in Edmonton, Kenney sent out this tweet the same day the media reported it, and was sure to include the word anti–Semitism in it.

In fact, when I restrict my earlier search to just the words Islamophobia and Islamophobic, only 2 tweets come up. Both of them occurred this past January and were part of the same thread that referred to the 4th anniversary of the Québec mosque shooting.

Which leaves one wondering why he’s so quick to use antisemitic or antisemitism but not Islamophobic or Islamophobia. Even if the nature of the events are the same.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

2 replies on “Why does Jason Kenney refuse to say “Islamophobia”?”

Great article, Kim. One note I would like to mention concerns the 2 graphs you use … “Tweets about Islamophobia/antisemitism”. Both graphs are fine in illustrating, in a graphic manner, the variation by year of the number of social media posts by Kenney. However, his preference to favor calling out antisemitism vs calling out Islamophobia would be more truthfully represented if the scale on the left was the same. Such that the bar showing his 2016 tweets re. antisemitism would be 5 times higher than his 2016 tweets re. Islamophobia. A minor point but one that more forcefully supports your article’s point.

Great suggestion, Rob. My worry was that if I used the same scale for both graphs, the differences between years for the Islamophobia tweets would be lost because of relative infrequency. Maybe I could have done a combined graph. Next time. 🙂

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