MIRZA YAWAR BAIG | 19 MARCH, 2019
If You Don’t Want to Burn, Help Put Out the Fire
For how long the denial?
“Er! Ahem! Excuse me, you may not have noticed but something is happening. My neighbor has imported a man-eating tiger to eat her mother-in-law. She wants her MIL to become a MEAL.” (Ugh! Bad pun or whatever.)
“And after the tiger has finished the offending mother-in-law?”
“Well, my neighbour hasn’t thought about it that far. Maybe she thinks the tiger will disappear into the woodwork.”
“It’s a man-eating tiger. Not a mother-in-law eating tiger. I don’t think it cares about who it eats as long as they’re human. Then it will be your neighbour herself, then her family and then you and me.”
“Er! Ahem! I am not sure it’s a good idea to say these things.”
“50 Muslims killed at Friday prayers in #NewZealandShooting by far-right fanatics,” the headlines say.
Why do they call them ‘far-right’? They are far-far-wrong.
It is not semantics. ‘Right’ has a nice ring to it. Right is just, justifiable, correct, accurate, fair and good. Killing 50 worshippers is none of these things.
Let us begin by calling the animal by its name, which is Fascism. Not far-right, but fascist. Remember what happens when you don’t name the disease. Six million Jews were killed to teach us a lesson. Millions of Germans, otherwise ‘good’ people I suppose, remained silent and watched it happen.
These Jews were not killed by rampaging hordes. They were clinically murdered by scientists who developed ever more efficient ways to do it. Just like the man in New Zealand who not only killed innocent people but livestreamed his actions and published a manifesto.
Social media platforms which don’t get tired of telling you how state-of-the-art their technology is, and how it can catch and identify every message, allowed the video of cold-blooded murder to travel all over the world, unremarked for many hours after it happened and until someone protested about it.
When someone can livestream the mass murder of people at prayer, you know depravity has sunk to its lowest level.
Something is happening. What is that something?
It is the rapid normalization of hate. Hate has suddenly been legitimised and given pride of place.
I lived and worked in America and among the things I taught there is the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. This gives the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the authority to sue in federal courts when it finds reasonable cause to believe that there has been employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin. Yet today none other than the President of the US himself mocks, condemns and expresses hatred against Americans and others on all these bases.
He is found acceptable.
The truth is that hatred has been stoked and nurtured at every level and it is international. That is what we must accept if we want a cure.
Just to recollect: the gunman who killed worshippers in Quebec, Anders Breivik in Norway, Donald Trump’s brazen anti-Muslim rhetoric, Boris Johnson’s vilification of Muslim women, Tommy Robinson, Katie Hopkins, Jayda Fransen, Paul Golding… are all given primetime slots on mainstream media and allowed millions of followers on social media.
In India, the rise of fascist views has grown in tandem with extremist Hindu groups attacking Muslims and supporting Trump. This is tacitly supported by a total lack of action against the criminals, which encourages them to do more.
Israel routinely shoots Palestinian men, women and children. No comments. Communist-capitalist China imprisons, rapes and tortures over a million Uighur Muslims in the name of fighting extremism. The allegedly peace-loving Buddhists of Myanmar, led by the infamous Aung San Suu Kyi, slaughter and dispossess their Rohingya Muslim fellow citizens with impunity. The list is endless, but this will suffice for what I need to say.
Killing and abusing Muslims is always justified and easily explained. Just as killing Jews was accepted and justified all through medieval times.
The reality is that there were no Syrian or Iraqi or Libyan or Palestinian refugees until America and its allies created them. Most refugees today are escaping the hell created in their homelands by wars and strife foisted on them by nations seeking resources, selling arms and establishing exploitation.
In the same breath as demanding peace, the Security Council or NATO nations manufacture and sell weapons of mass destruction to the vilest dictators on the planet, or use them in their own personal pursuits of commerce and diplomacy at the point of a gun.
One of the ‘leaders’ said about the sale of F-16’s, ‘It was not meant to be used in combat.’ Well, what else do you use it for? To take your girlfriend to the movies?
I recall a poster when JFK was assassinated. It had a picture of a gun in a square frame and the caption, ‘This is made for one thing only.’ At least someone then, spoke the truth.
I don’t want to address the individuals, leaders or groups perpetrating these crimes. I am speaking to the vast majority: people who remain silent even though they are well aware of what is happening.
Hatred is a maneater far more voracious than any poor tiger. Hatred is fire and it burns anything in its path. Hatred is fire and the result is always ash.
It doesn’t matter why the fire was lit. It can do only one thing, burn. And the result is always ash.
Is this what you want to bequeath to the world? To your own children?
There were some very heartwarming and encouraging reactions to the horrific attack in New Zealand. Overwhelming support from local communities for the victims and their families. A spontaneous outpouring of love and kindness and courage. Thousands of calls to the mosques where people were killed. A clear statement of resolve by the prime minister, who called it an ‘unprecedented premeditated terrorist act.’
I must admit that I was waiting for the usual ‘stressed out man with personal problems’ definition usually used for all white male terrorists. But God Bless PM Ardern, she said it like it is.
There were similar statements by the Head of New Zealand Police which is doing an amazing job of bringing the perpetrators to book. No police force in the world can be expected to anticipate and prevent every crime. But every police force in the world can and must investigate crime when it happens. And prosecute the criminal. And aid the victim.
When that is not done, the police are as culpable as the criminal, if not more.
What I want to say to you is this. Get out of denial. There is a change happening in the world and it is the same the world over. Fascism is growing roots, nourished by those who benefit from it. But nourished even more by your silence. Fascism and cowardice are a lethal combination and you will be the casualty.
You think your silence and hiding in your hole will save you? It won’t. On the contrary, that is what allows fascism to grow ever stronger until the bell tolls for you one day.
‘First they came …’ is a poem written by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group by group.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum quotes the following text as one of the many poetic versions of the speech:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Good reactions may isolate the perpetrators of these crimes. But what we need even more, is proactive action. Proactive action by all of us.
We need to stand up and speak out.
We need to get out of our safe little nests and speak out against those using hatred to divide us so that they can benefit.
We must speak out against all hatred, no matter who it is directed against.
Those who seek to promote it must be rejected, lambasted and castigated.
Whoever they may be.
We must send the snakes of hatred, racism, fascism back into their holes.
We must recognize the obscenity of hate speech and be ashamed of it.
It is time to speak up. We must show our support for justice, compassion, mutual respect and human dignity at the ballot boxes.
We must hold the media accountable for fanning the flames of hatred, and for giving hate speakers and xenophobia mongers, public platforms from which to propagate their venomous ideologies.
Choose life, dignity, peace, prosperity and economic development.
Remember that not one of those will come from killing people, spreading hatred, or supporting the fascist agendas of self-serving politicians.
For how long the denial?
We are going back towards fascism. It’s the Muslims today, but it’s the Christians and Dalits too, and really it is all of us.
If we don't fight it, it will consume us.
Islamophobia is xenophobia, is fascism, is racism.
It is the blatant hijacking of society by a few, because the majority are too lazy to speak up and stand for what they know to be right.
I don’t want to be among them. I will speak and I will stand up. Even if I am alone. Especially if I am alone.
If you don’t want to burn, help put out the fire. It’s as simple as that.