Last Wednesday, controversial Pakistani-Canadian activist Raheel Raza visited the Minnesota State Capitol to meet with Republican state lawmakers.
Raza’s appearance was met with vocal resistance from Democratic lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, who penned a letter to Rep. Roz Peterson asking her to rescind Raza’s invitation. Hortman’s office provided a copy of the letter to Hatewatch.
The letter states, “Ms. Raza is an extremist who is associated with anti-Muslim hate groups ACT for America and the Clarion Project.” After citing the Southern Poverty Law Center’s reasons for the hate group designation, the letter also pointed to Raza’s history of anti-Muslim statements, noting, “Ms. Raza’s hateful agenda includes closing mosques, enforcing a Muslim ban, rejecting refugees and policing the practice of the Islamic faith.”
In 2014, after an ISIS-inspired assailant rammed his car into two Canadian soldiers in Quebec, Raza penned “AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL CANADIANS” on her blog in which she proposed that the country, “Put a moratorium on immigration from Muslim countries for a set period till [sic] matters here settle down.”
In the same blog post, she also proposed that Canada “Close all mosques for three months,” claiming, “This is not abuse of religious freedom — it’s to ENSURE that religion can be free and survive in Canada while protecting the country.”
In a 2015 editorial, Raza called on the Canadian government to ban niqabs (face veils) and burqas in public, claiming, they are threats to national security. “The next government must legislate the complete ban on wearing face masks in public, not just to expose the hypocrisy of the Islamists but for the sake of our security as well,” she wrote.
Raza’s support of anti-Muslim advocacy can be traced back to 2010, when she published an op-ed expressing her opposition to the construction of the Park51 Islamic center in Manhattan, which later became to be known as the “Ground Zero mosque.” Raza claimed building the Islamic center was a “deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the ‘infidel.’”
After President Trump’s first attempted Muslim Ban was announced in January 2017, Raza appeared in a video defending the policy, claiming it was about “region, not religion.” The video was produced by the Clarion Project.
Raza has lent her voice in support of anti-Muslim groups hate groups. In 2016, she spoke at a conference organized by the hate group ACT for America (ACT), an organization whose founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has said an observant Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” Raza has also co-founded a group called Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights & Freedoms with Valerie Price, who heads ACT’s sister organization, ACT for Canada. Raza is listed on ACT Canada's website as a past speaker, along with other anti-Muslim figures such as Clare Lopez and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, an Austrian activist convicted of hate speech against Muslims.
Price claims her ACT chapter works to educate Canadian citizens “about the triumphalist brand of Islam that seeks to erode our cherished western principles of free speech and equality with the goal of eventual Islamic supremacy in the West.” In an online newsletter to supporters, Price praised Raza’s 2014 blog post, writing, “Right on Raheel!”
The group Raza works most closely with is the Clarion Project, formerly known as the Clarion Fund, an organization that produces materials claiming “Radical Islam” is on a mission to take over the West.
Clarion is most known for producing and distributing documentary films with an anti-Muslim slant. The organization first made national headlines in 2008 when it distributed its 2005 film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West to 28 million voters in 14 battleground states during the presidential election. The film features commentary from anti-Muslim figures like Walid Shoebat, Daniel Pipes, and Steve Emerson, and pushes the narrative that Muslims are bent on global conquest.
One of the main faces of the Clarion Project is Ryan Mauro, the group’s national security analyst. Mauro is a frequent guest on conservative news outlets like Fox News. He is also active on the anti-Muslim speaking circuit. During his appearances, Mauro regularly pushes anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. He has previously claimed Muslims in the U.S. are working to “create enclaves where they can begin gradually implementing Sharia law.” Mauro has a history of promoting the debunked myth of Muslim-only “no-go zones” in Europe and has claimed such areas are starting to take root in the U.S.
Clarion’s board has included notorious anti-Muslim figures like Frank Gaffney, Clare Lopez and Daniel Pipes. Walid Phares, another anti-Muslim spokesperson, was also listed as a board member in 2013. According to Mother Jones, Phares spent the 1980s indoctrinating violent Christian extremists during Lebanon’s brutal civil war.
Yet despite all of this damning information, Raza’s response to the concerns about her links to anti-Muslim hate in an interview with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press was to act dumbfounded. She said, “I don’t know where they got their information,” and went on to claim, “What I do is the opposite.”
Far from the “reformist” and “progressive” individual she claims to be, Raza’s extensive history of anti-Muslim statements and open ties to hate groups make her fundamentally undemocratic. She is one of the least appropriate individuals to inform the decisions of an institution that is meant to be inclusive to as many people as possible irrespective of their backgrounds, including what faith they may profess.