Opinion

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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

This article is going to be disturbing. It has hateful content. Be forewarned.

After the discovery last week of stickers in our city promoting white supremacy and racist hate groups, and the vandalism at our mosque, the community came together in support and concern. We want to believe that this is not us.

When the foolish vandal left a trail and was arrested, we wanted to tell ourselves that the unpleasantness was behind us and we could return to our regular summer lives.

But we cannot be complacent. The words below were written by our neighbours. We know their names. They work and live in our area.

Our Muslim neighbours might not find this nearly as disturbing as others, but that is only because they have seen it and read it – and worse – too many times before.  If you are shocked it is because it is still new to you. Because your bubble is too thick and effective. This is not part of your regular experience and it is hard to accept that it is part of the experience of men, women and children in our city and across Canada.

Every single day moderators of local Facebook pages and groups are monitoring and scrubbing because we do not want to share the messages of racist commenters. I do this too; I censor insults, lies, and sometimes hate speech from comments on our social media.

But many of those commenters are our neighbours, in this community and in thousands of others, unafraid of making these statements under their own names because they think they are simply stating what most of those around them – especially the white people of Christian heritage – also believe.

It is time to admit that these are not the words of a few “assholes”, as many including our MP have called them. I hear, and read, comments like those below every single day, and many are from right here in our community. 

While the president of the Owen Sound Muslim Association was explaining to those gathered Saturday evening that the kneeling posture of prayer is to show respect to the God of Moses and Abraham and Jesus, the words below were in a folder on my computer. The writer is an Owen Sound business man, and this is a sample of the writing on his Facebook page.  He also had a local media presence, and  I complained for two years to those who gave him that public credibility before it was taken away from him. He called me a leftist trying to interfere with his free speech. 

This is what he wrote in a local Facebook group, under his own name:

“Unlike Jews, Muslims bring hate upon themselves by their actions worldwide. There is not 2 kinds of Muslims. The lunatics who kill and destroy are not outliers; they are practicing their faith exactly as it is described in their “holy” books. I believe that the “peaceful” members of this death cult could very well be waiting [until] they outnumber us and then will enthusiastically join the party of death and destruction. Why else would anyone worship an entity who history has proved to be a lying, homophobic, racist, misogynist, pedophile murdering warlord?”

A young local mother brought these posts below to light. The writers used their own names, and their pages clearly identified them. One was not from Owen Sound, but not far away. They are a small fraction of similar posts.

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 toomanyislams

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We must face the fact that these are our neighbours. They live and work with us – we do business with them and send our children to school with them. There is a long history here in our community.  Pretending this is not here will not keep it from being nurtured and propagated. Call it out.

So far, people have been using stickers and eggs, Facebook and spray paint to intimidate and terrorize. But for some, that will not be enough. Words will feed the hate, but words won't be enough and people will be at risk.

Do not pass along tweets and posts you cannot verify. Call bigotry and hate by its name, and do not tolerate it when you see or hear it.

Do not minimize the harm this does, or deny that it is in our community.


 

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