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Emad Barsoum writes: Hate Crimes and the Secular State

A few weeks after appointing, for the first time, a special representative for combatting Islamophobia, we hear about an act of vandalism in a Mandir, the Hindu temple. The police considered this act a hate crime.

Total police-reported hate crimes were 3360 cases in 2021 – According to Statistics Canada report published in August 2022.

A shameful and stressful number in the times where we call for inclusion, diversity, and tolerance always. Out of the total cases reported, there were 884 cases motivated by religious reasons, and 1723 contributed to Race and ethnic motivations. The report showed that Jews were the highest with 427 hate crime reported cases, followed by Catholics with 155 reported cases, third Muslims with 144 cases, then other religions 64.

Numbers might not seem noteworthy in relevance to the population and its diverse religious affiliations. Yet, still, an alarming factor that could lead to higher confrontations between religions, especially that different religious groups tend to accentuate any incident, then politicians and media play a significant role in even heightening these incidents and trying to create more fear among the society. Thus, leading to two major results; more concessions for specific groups and more votes to politicians.

While the modern civilized world has achieved lengthy milestones towards establishing true secular nations, where religion is always kept as a personal matter and not as an identity to any human being, we find out that our country, one of the major democracies, is not following the same path or, in fact, is going backward, no different than a few other third world countries which cannot abandon religion as an identity and nationality determinant. Those countries are famous for many crimes against humanity and oppression.

Our politicians cannot read and learn the history and understand that the religion card only entailed unrest and conflicts, leading to the turmoil that has scarred many nations till nowadays. Those nations, instead of moving towards progress and democracy, are still waving the blasphemy laws, the religion contempt laws, and the hate crime laws in the face of their citizens, no different than the times of the inquisition carried by the church in the medieval era and till the industrial revolution and the renaissance came to save humanity.

No country can allegedly be democratic and secular without ending classifying its citizens on an ethnic or religious basis, and, if no privileges or focus is given to specific groups, there will be no sense of discrimination.

Imagine our children in daycare from different races or religions, we see them playing every day with innocence and simplicity, but once they go to school, we start teaching them new words… ethnicity, religion, belief, or color.

They start to fear the other or at least become very sensitive towards the other; they stop playing together based on religious affiliation because their religious institutes create and fuel these differences through their religious classes and family traditions that instead of building an accepting generation to the other, they maintain deep discrimination, and the blessings of the government do all.