Ten years ago, in a hate crime reported by CNN to the whole world, unknown assailants set fire to the Hindu Samaj Temple in Hamilton and burned it to the ground. The Hamilton Mosque was also attacked twice on following days. No one was ever brought to trial.
These hate crimes were local, racist reactions to the events of September 11, 2001 in the USA and marked the beginning of two worldwide trends. The first was George W. Bush’s so-called “war on terror” which turned out to be a war of terror against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq (and continued by Obama) against the people of Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and most recently, Libya. The second was the move racially to profile Arabs and Muslims in Europe and North America for discriminatory treatment and, in many cases, for arrest, incarceration, and even rendition for torture in other countries.
BUT there were also other local, positive reactions to the attacks ten years ago on the Hindu Samaj and Hamilton Mosque. One was the immediate call for solidarity among the many faith communities in Hamilton who stood shoulder to shoulder with local Hindus and Muslims at several local public events. Another was the grassroots campaign to rebuild the Samaj and declare it to be a national historic site, a task completed with some governmental aid, in 2005. A third was to form an all-compassing committee of representatives from the diverse communities that make up Hamilton, along with representatives of the police, media, and education sector. That group is now called the HCCI, the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.
Recently, to remind us of 9/11, Prime Minister Harper declared that “Islamacism” was the main threat to Canada and that Canadians could look forward to more foreign wars à la Libya and Afghanistan. Basically, he reiterated the Bush line that Muslims were the problem and that war is the answer. In fact, Harper’s policies are the bigger threat. Harper’s support of war and occupation, his reckless support of Big Oil, which is causing climate change, and his austerity agenda are all creating greater inequality and insecurity both abroad and at home.
Harper also wants to resurrect draconian security laws that will suspend charter rights for Canadians. These laws create a legal system that allows people to be thrown in jail without charge or warrant, based on suspicion rather than fact. This is a threat to the freedom of all Canadians and must be stopped.
Harper made his anti-Muslim comments to create the climate of fear and hatred necessary to sell Canadians on more wars, heightened security measures, more prisons, increased funding for the military (including the incredibly expensive F-35 Stealth fighter jets), and restrictions to our civil liberties.
On September 11, 2011, Hamiltonians marched in the street to mark the tenth anniversary of the torching of the Hindu Samaj Temple. In Hamilton and across Canada, we now need a collective response to Harper’s racist attack on Muslims, on our civil liberties, and against his drive for more wars.