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Kingston mayor denounces Islamophobic social media post

Tweet from Mayor Bryan Paterson on Saturday, May 9, 2020.

When a social media account purporting to be based in Kingston posted an act of hate seemingly based in Islamophobia over the weekend, local leaders were quick to condemn the act publicly.

On Friday, May 8, 2020, a Twitter account, coming from a user purporting to be from or in Kingston published the hateful post showing someone, apparently her, barefoot on top of a Qur’an. The photo, which shows brightly-painted fingers and toes curling inward to wrinkle and bunch up the pages of the Qur’an, includes a comment in Hindi, which Twitter roughly translates to “How was my way of reading Qur’an…”

The post, which remains online, has been followed with posts of a similar theme, including one showing a woman standing on a Qur’an in shoes, and another making foul accusations against Muslims in general.

The post was brought to the attention of Mayor Bryan Paterson, who took to Twitter to denounce the hateful act.

“It was brought to my attention earlier today that a very troubling photo was posted on social media by someone in our city,” Paterson wrote on Twitter. “Let me be very clear, we are a caring and respectful community. Acts of hatred or discrimination are not welcome in Kingston.”

The initial tweet has since been reported to Twitter by multiple users, but has yet to be removed. The account in question appears to be relatively new, however, a similar Twitter account has since been deleted or suspended.

Leaders in the local Muslim community also took issue with the tweet in question, and the historical pattern of Islamophobic tweets attributed to the poster.

“As Muslims, the Qur’an is not just a book; it is revelation from God and its words are the direct words of God as revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the Angel Jibril (Gabriel),” said Mona Rahman, the Education Coordinator of the Islamic Society of Kingston.

“At this time when we should all be standing strong together and looking out for each other, it’s sad that there are those who insist on causing division and hate,” Rahman continued. “While this type of behaviour is always distressing, it’s more hurtful now during Ramadan, a blessed time when we strive to do more good and become closer to God, but it also known as the month of the Qur’an. This is the month when the first revelation of the Qur’an was sent down.”

Rahman said that the people of Kingston are a community comprised of people from different ethnicities and different faiths who strive to live with mutual respect of each other. She spoke of a recent vandalism that took place at the local mosque on one of its busiest days annually, and how the community rallied around the local Muslim community after that hateful act.

“In a small community such as ours we are more strongly connected to each other,” she said. “We saw this when the mosque was vandalized that day of the Bazaar, the number of people who came out that day to show their support was overwhelming.”

From a local law enforcement standpoint, Const. Ash Gutheinz, Media Relations Officer for Kingston Police, said that, after checking extensively, he found that no reports about the post had been filed.

“Kingston Police have not received any information regarding threats to the Islamic community or any other religious denomination. Should anyone have information pertaining to specific threats within our community we implore them to reach out to Kingston Police to submit a report,” Gutheinz expressed. “Any reported hate-based criminal offences that occur within the City of Kingston will be investigated thoroughly. Should members of the public find any social media posting offensive they have the ability to immediately report these offensive posts to the social media provider to have them reviewed and possibly removed.”

And for Rahman, the reprehensible act is one that should offend our community as a whole, a community she said is stronger when working together.

“I think we can agree that this type of disrespect towards a holy book is unacceptable and hurtful to people of faith in general,” she said. “This type of behaviour is not who we are as Kingstonians in general. Or, at least, it should not be.”

As of today, Monday, May 11, 2020, the social media post in question has been retweeted over 5,000 times. Due to the nature and hateful content of the post, Kingstonist has decided not to further share the photo in question.

With files from Cris Vilela.

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