Some political leaders in Western countries have focused on countering radical Islamist groups while failing to address potential threats from right-wing extremists and white supremacists, according to a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Toronto.

The Canadian government’s past reports on terrorist threats have identified a number of groups, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, without usually mentioning right-wing extremists.

Anver Emon, director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, noted that Canada’s public safety report began mentioning right-wing extremist groups in 2018, but as a footnote to its concerns around jihadist groups that it identified.

“I do think we have a disparity in the way our federal government takes aim and focuses its interests on those groups that pose greater threats more locally and more pervasively,” he said.

Emon also said some politicians tend to tweet about Muslim communities in broad strokes after an Islamic terror attack, but may not do the same for other groups in society.

For example, last November Australia’s prime minister tweeted about ensuring his country’s Muslim communities were not “infiltrated” by “extremist radical Islam.

“We have these almost benign-like tweets made by a number of leaders using a couple facts around one or two perpetrated acts to then cast widely a net on an entire community,” Emon said.

“We don’t see that oftentimes applied, let’s say in the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, we don’t suddenly see a similar tweet around white Christian groups or white nationalists or right-wing extremists in the same way.”

According to Emon, these posts aren’t particularly helpful.

“The fact is there isn’t a community I can think of that doesn’t have internal divisions, doesn’t have problems, doesn’t have community members or members of their other constituency that pose criminal intent,” Emon said.

“We need to think of this more as a public safety and criminal law issue rather than as an ideological one often times used more for political and intellectual gain, usually as a run-up to an election.”

Emon also said political leaders need to be wary of engaging in the politics of division.

“In some cases we have the prime minister of New Zealand doing an amazing job trying to bring her country together,” Emon said. “But we see around the world other countries -- I think in particular Donald Trump in the United States and other European leaders -- have used the issues around Islam and migration and immigrant labour as an electoral politics issue.”