By Laura Steiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Milton area Hindus are outraged after Ward 4 Regional Councillor Zeeshan Hamid posted comments about attacks in Jerusalem, and across India last month to his ‘Politician’ account.
“Not going to share the videos but heartbroken to see yet another attack on Al-Aqsa during Ramadan prayers as well as continued harassment of worshippers in parts of India by right-wing extremists. It’s not a peaceful Ramadan for everyone.”
The original post was made on Hamid’s official “Councillor Zeeshan Hamid” Facebook page, on April 15.
Over the Easter weekend Facebook posts began appearing on social media with the hashtags #StopHate, #SayNotoDiscrimination #UnitedIndia. The posts are from the Hindu Community of Halton and Hamilton (HCHH). They feature a red and white colour scheme and ask Miltonians to research what’s in the news, and not take word of elected official, specifically naming Hamid. “I would say it was not social media campaign but rather a reaction of the Hindu community towards the hate remarks of Public Figure Zeeshan Hamid,” Arunesh Ram Giri said in a recent interview. Giri is a local volunteer in Milton, and runs the HCHH Facebook group.
The incidents in India included one in a suburb of New Delhi during a procession marking the Hindu festival Hanuman Jayanti. “Councillor Hamid claims he has family from India yet he made a statement which was related to an unfortunate event that took place elsewhere, but he cleverly tied it to India knowing that his statement could divide the community living here in Milton” Shona Sharma said. According to Al Jezeera, the incident remains under investigation by authorities. Similar incidents occurred across other states controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘right-wing’ Hindu-Nationalist Party Bharatiya Janata Party. Opposition leaders have written a letter calling for peace and calm following the clashes. The incident in Jerusalem at the Al-Aqsa mosque is believed to have been caused by riots that trapped Jewish tourists visiting the Wailing Wall. Israeli media reports there is a chance authorities will close Temple mount to Jewish visitors until after Eid (May 1).
Giri says the Hindu community is shocked at Hamid’s conduct. “All Indians are showing their resistance via social media. This is nothing less than targeting Indian people, and spreading false information,” he said. Sharma feels as if Hamid’s focus should be on Milton. “He needs to bring the message of unity and growth, rather than divide and discriminate,” she said.
Giri views the statement as disrespectful to the Indian community in Milton, and expects more from political leaders. “We should hold our elected officials up to a higher standard,” he said.
Sharma understands the human side of it. “People make mistakes, but as a public figure he needs to acknowledge his mistakes and simply apologize to the people he has hurt from his community from his community. That’s all we ask for,” she said.
The Milton Reporter reached out to Councillor Hamid for a further comment. He replied: “I am taking a moment to hear from the community to understand their concerns.”