Canadian Muslims Report Second Hate Crime During Holiday Season
Worshippers at Vancouver's oldest mosque say they are once again the targets of a hate crime after an anonymous caller phoned local police threatening to bomb the Surrey Masjid in Surrey, British Columbia.
This latest incident comes just one month after the mosque was devastated in a suspicious fire. No arrests have been made in either incident.
Mosque officials suspect both incidents are tied to the Islamic holiday season and a sharp increase in tensions in the Middle East. The suspected arson came just days before the holy month of Ramadan and the threat was made on the Eid al-Fitr holiday. "We are seeing a disturbing pattern of events targeting Muslims in British Columbia. It is important that local officials seek help from their colleagues at the national level to make sure the perpetrators are apprehended," said Dr. Sheema Khan, director of Ottawa's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Since the November fire, members of the mosque have been worshipping in a house and tent next door to the gutted building. The mosque is reportedly covered by insurance and area Muslim children launched a fundraising drive to help restore the facility.
Surrey Masjid, which opened in 1979, is one of at least six mosques and Islamic centers in the Greater Vancouver area.
Canadian authorities told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation they are following up on witness reports of a van speeding away from the scene just before an explosion was heard. They have not yet released an official cause of the fire, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced they are still looking for any additional witnesses to the suspected arson. Khan points to negative portrayals of Muslims in the American and Canadian media point to a possible motive in the attack.
"The racist tone of pro-Israel commentaries in the current Middle East crisis only serves to fan the flames of existing prejudice and stereotyping. This anti-Muslim rhetoric can easily turn into the reality of physical attacks," said Khan in a statement release late last month. She cited a November 19 Calgary Sun commentary claiming the "mandate of Islam" is "death to the Jews." Representatives of that same newspaper recently apologized after an associate editor told Muslim critics "Allah be damned! Mohammed too!"
In another incident on October 13, panelist Victor Mordecai said "...the Muslim people are good people, but Islam is a Satanic system," during a program on radio station CJBK in London, Ontario. In the October 30th issue of MacLean's magazine, columnist Barbara Amiel wrote: "Arab culture...appears to put the glory of the tribe and Allah before the individual's happiness or suffering."
A recently released media report by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) cited Canada's National Post as the newspaper that publishes the most Islamophobic rhetoric.
CAIR reports that remarks by a range of public figures, from congressional candidates to syndicated columnists, have portrayed Islam as "murderous" and Palestinians as "lower than pond scum" or "rag heads," "pieces of sh-t" and "turds." And several weeks ago, CAIR released a statement citing fears that "the escalation of Islamophobic rhetoric could trigger a backlash against American Muslims." CAIR cited as an example the anti-Muslim hysteria following the 1995 terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Attacks on mosques and Islamic centers have occurred across North America. Just recently, vandals targeted the Islamic Center of Southern California. In June, a gunman attacked a Memphis, Tenn., Islamic center as worshipers gathered for morning prayers. In May of last year, a would-be terrorist was arrested after fleeing from the area of a mosque near Denver, Colorado. The suspect's car was found to contain loaded weapons and bomb-making materials.
As early as 1994, a nearly completed mosque in Yuba City, California burned to the ground in what was ruled an arson attack. In 1995, arson destroyed a Springfield, Illinois Islamic center. And in 1996, a suspect was charged for involvement in an arson attack on a Greenville, South Carolina mosque. Acts of mosque vandalism have occurred in Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, and Georgia. Last year, an arson attack severely damaged a Minneapolis, Minnesota mosque.
Topics: Canada, Conflicts And War, England, Vancouver