by Hayy Yaqzan (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 47, No. 10, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1440)
It has been 10 years since the CBC gave Ranendra “Ron” Banerjee a platform to tell Canadians about his relationship with his faith. “For me, being a Hindu entails protecting and defending the faith democratically from unfair and inaccurate stereotypes,” Banerjee wrote. “It means political lobbying and media activism. It includes engaging fellow Canadians and ensuring that our children never suffer from doubts or prejudice [emphasis added]. This is what maintains my faith as a Hindu.”
Publishing Banerjee’s misleading comments was the CBC’s second mistake; the first was inviting him to express his views as if he represents the Hindu Canadian community.
A more accurate picture of what Banerjee really stands for was painted by Justice Shaun Nakatsuru of Canada’s Superior Court in June 2018. According to the magazine NOW, the judge said that Banerjee’s comments at petty protest outside a Paramount Fine Foods restaurant in July 2017 “go beyond offensive or hurtful expression,” “involve hallmarks of hate,” and “can only inspire extreme ill will and disdain.” After being sued for libel, Banerjee had tried to distance himself from the case by insisting that his comments were meant to be “personal [and] humorous.” Thankfully, the judge was having none of it. He called Banerjee’s testimony “evasive” and mentioned many inflammatory comments that Banerjee had made in the past.
Banerjee’s origins and the details of his life are unclear. However, he certainly spends much of his time spewing hatred against Muslims and others, and claiming to do so on behalf of the Hindu community. And it is a long list of “others”: Sikhs, Chinese, feminists, homosexuals, anti-rape activists, to name just a few. He claims to lead a group called the Canadian Hindu Advocacy (CHA). In an amusing incident at a protest in which he confidently told a reporter to simply “look around” to see his supporters, Banerjee spent several minutes trying to convince anyone from those present to join him but they all refused to do so (Banerjee later claimed that the reporter showed up too early to the protest, despite his own “look around” comment).
An important question is why this reporter, representing a respected media outlet, felt the need to interview “Ron” in the first place. This incident occurred in the context of the 2011 protests at Valley Park Middle School, a Toronto-area public school that had accommodated Muslim students’ Friday prayers in the cafeteria, given the exceptionally large number of Muslims attending that school. Banerjee was one of the loudest opponents of the “mosqueteria,” and many media outlets, including the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun, recognized him as a “critic of Islam” in their coverage of this issue. Maclean’s was one of the few outlets that reported on what Banerjee and the CHA were really about, “a vehemently anti-Islamic organization,” “an embarrassment to Canadian pluralism” and, in the words of one journalist, “small samosas.”
This incident was Banerjee’s breakthrough into the Islamophobia industry in which, it seems, he has yet to be promoted to any role above performing dirty, unskilled labour (in his own words, he’s a “hired gun”). His role, apparently, is to make the most ridiculous, petty, and self-degrading claims and comments about Muslims. For example, “In its entire history, Islam, the Islamic civilization, has invented and has contributed less to human advancement than a pack of donkeys. That’s the truth.” Or, “How do you know when a Muslim is lying? When his lips are moving.” And there’s also this, referring to the Dutch politician who has been found guilty of inciting discrimination and hatred, “What we need is thousands, thousands, and thousands of Geert Wilders everywhere in the world.”
These are some of Banerjee’s more polite comments. Behind the cloak of anonymity given to him by the Twitter account of Rise Canada, a right-wing organization he is the National Communications Director of, Banerjee has stood for some revolting statements. Replying to one woman’s tweet, “the account” said, “The person who raped you must have been blind. Looked in a mirror lately?” And the follow-up, “Funny how women LEAST likely to be raped scream the loudest about “rape culture.’” And finally, “Rape prevention means staying away from Muslims. Best way to stop rape.”
This is the same account that has tweeted, “Muslims are rotten from the time they drop from the womb,” and also offered a solution, “Hope the Syrian army slaughters all the kids first.” Unfortunately, this is not the only account that Banerjee channels his bigotry through. The CHA also has a Twitter account, which has tweeted, “Every Paki/Muslim in USA should be prosecuted for being cockroaches.” And in a discussion about the death of Kayla Mueller, a pro-Palestinian human rights advocate and humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped by ISIS in Syria and then killed in 2015 in an airstrike while in captivity, this is what Banerjee’s CHA had to say, “Yup these Muslim loving do gooders, white slut w/ Muslim boyfriend traipsing off to barbaric Islamic hellholes? Glad she died.”
Banerjee claims to speak not only for himself, but for all Hindu Canadians through the CHA. In his own words, “the Canadian Hindu Advocacy was formed to address this, and our national advocacy shall continue to provide real leadership to our oppressed community, which is by far the most victimized in Canada.” He has also claimed that the Canadian values of democracy and freedom are based on Hindu and Judeo-Christian principles, whereas Muslims, “by their very nature, promote barbaric, uncivilized, un-Canadian values.” He is also known for famously declaring, “I’m Hindu so I’m superior” and making deeply racist statements about Sikhs, Chinese, Africans, and others. There’s no end to his bigotry.
In fact, Banerjee goes so far as to make other Islamophobes look “mainstream.” One of his articles on the CHA website is titled “CHA exposes The Sham of Tarek Fatah.” Both Banerjee and Fatah are on the same page about promoting Hindutva in Canada, and yet Banerjee considers Fatah a “sham,” possibly because of Fatah’s support for gay rights. For his part, there is a photo that can easily be found online of the “tolerant” Banerjee choking a gay man at a protest.
It is difficult to imagine that a publicly-active Muslim in Canada could get away with saying half of Banerjee’s quoted statements in this article, without facing some kind of backlash from the government, the media, or even from the regulators of the platforms he is using, such as Twitter. It is the collective responsibility of conscientious Canadians — especially Hindus, whom he falsely claims to represent, and Muslims and Sikhs, who are his primary targets — to unite in denouncing Banerjee and his bigotry and calling out the media’s cozy relationship with him. They should also demand from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter that the hateful content posted by Banerjee or one of his organizations be permanently taken down.
It is likely, in light of all the evidence presented in this article, that Banerjee will continue his one-man mission of dismantling “unfair and inaccurate stereotypes” and “ensuring that our children never suffer from doubts or prejudice.” If you happen to be driving by the next Islamophobic protest over a non-issue, please stop and remind him (he is sure to be there — alone) that spewing endless bigotry may not be the best way to teach children about why stereotypes and prejudice are not very nice.