When fear lashes out in hatred

Farjana Liakat | Update:

An injured person is loaded into an ambulance following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March 2019. Photo: Reuters“My dad went in for prayers and never came out,” New Zealand Herald quoted the son of possible victim, Rahimi Ahmad, a Malaysian national. 

At least 49 people were killed and dozens more injured in a terrorist attack in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. They were killed in a place that is supposed to be the safest.

There has been an outburst of reactions, condemnation and remorse all around. The shooter live streamed the massacre on social media during the attack. It would be wrong to write of this horror as a mere hate-crime or a simple manifestation of the Islamophobia menace.

This is a well-cultivated mindset. It is malignant. The hatred, the wrath and the violence prone mindset behind such crimes are emboldened by extreme religious sentiments and the growing extreme nationalism too.
What is common between a Muslim suicide bomber and a shooter killing Muslims? They are one and the same, they are the same people whose hearts are filled with anger, hatred and darkness, blotting out all the beauty of this world.

Where does this anger and dreadful hatred come from? Isn’t it ‘fear’? The fear of being left out and being oppressed or exploited by ‘others’. One group kills another to keep themselves safe from potential threats. These fears are mostly injected by the political leaders or religious clerics who reap benefit from such hate mongering.
Innocent people are brainwashed and turn violent. Isn’t that so?

It wasn’t the Taliban or ISIS who have emerged as the only monsters. They are the white supremacists, racists, xenophobic and Islamophobic elements on the flip side.
Media and far right world leaders played a big role to conflate Islam and terrorism. For many it is ‘okay’ to kill Muslims because they are ‘potential terrorists’, even the attackers know they cannot get away with it!

Such a headline, ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis’ published in the British daily Sun on 23 November 2015 evoked criticism from various quaters.

Media does not miss any chance to create popular sensationalism that, in most cases, has turned to scaremongerism.
There are people like the New Zealand shooter who consider Islam as a threat to western liberal democracy. Does it remind us of the anti-semitic actions of Germans during World War II?

Similar dramas have been staged over and over down the ages. There were times Muslims felt violated by the killing of innocent Palestinians or Muslims in the Soviet Union. Suicide bombers came to take revenge. Then again, the non-Muslims came forward to take revenge. It is a continuous process. A chain, that never breaks. A vicious cycle.
The retaliation that emerges out of fear, the retaliation even before the first attack occurs, is the most violent one. “Our religion is in danger”, “Muslims are taking over our beloved country”, “our country is in danger”, “they are a threat to our culture”- these are the common beliefs of the extremists. These ‘self’ and ‘others’ instigate them to attack and kill others.

What made a 28-year-old young man carry out such meticulous research and preparation and then kill 49 people while they were praying? No matter what stringent laws and rules are in place, these cannot stop the malignant hatemongering unless we can identify the fear created by the leaders and clerics.

The man in front of you is a human being. Do we really have to bother about his or her religion, nationality or ethnicity? We saw the recent march in Virginia University where the protestors chanted, “Jews will not replace us!”

What is next after the New Zealand shooting? Another shooting at any church or temple? Where is the end of this game? Yes, a game. A game of defeating each other in the worst possible way. Can this bloodshed save a country? Can it save a religion or culture? Who will be left to enjoy the flourishing culture, religion or liberal democracy in this chain of revenge? Because we all know, “Dead men tell no tales.”

*Farjana Liakat works for Prothom Alo. She can be reached at farjana.liakat@prothomalo.com

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