I applaud the Tribune for its decision not to publish Letters to the Editor that use falsehoods to promote xenophobia.
While many Canadians, including First Nations people, are welcoming Syrian and other refugees to Canada, a few are busy spreading fear and hatred, often through distortions and misinformation. Here are four examples of unfounded claims circulating on social media and news comments:
1) There’s a “rape epidemic” in northern Europe, and Muslim men are the perpetrators.
One source of this myth is a video that claims, “Muslims are two per cent of Sweden’s population but they are responsible for almost all rapes”. This was produced by Alex Jones, an American conspiracy theorist whose “infowars” website disseminates strange, extremist content. A similar US source, the “Daily Caller”, says,
“A 1996 Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention report … noted that Muslim immigrants from North Africa were 23 times more likely to commit rape than Swedish men. It is no wonder why today Sweden is deemed the rape capital of the Western world.”
I wrote to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet – Brå), which is an agency under the Ministry of Justice. Klara Hradilova Selin told me on their behalf that although they did publish a report on immigrants and crime in 1996, “when it comes to the conclusions on Sweden as the worlds ‘rape capital’, it is, of course totally incorrect.”
2) The Canadian government is not screening refugees diligently, so we are vulnerable to jihadists and terrorists entering our country.
All refugees must go through a front-end security screening by CSIS.
3) Muslim immigrants will force Sharia law on Canadians.
This message spreads via Facebook memes such as one titled, “The definition of insane stupidity” which shows a photo of shouting women wearing hijabs. It originates from a Florida man who thinks President Obama is Muslim, and can also be found on at least one Nazi, white supremacist site. The far-right “Britain First” disseminates similar anti-immigrant material from its Facebook page.
4) Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier opposed any immigrants who would proselytise instead of assimilating, and said, “We won’t accept anyone … who will impose his religions or his customs on us.”
The source of this lie is a Facebook meme with an edited quote from US President Theodore Roosevelt that is falsely attributed to Laurier.