The protests in France that went on for nearly a week, started on 27 June following the killing of a 17-year-old teenager by the name of Nahel Merzouk. He was shot by a police officer due to not following traffic regulations that sparked outrage from many people in France and some other countries. Yet those who are up to date with social media are likely to know that there are lots of people who have condoned and not condemned the action taken by the said officer whose name is said to be Florian. What’s more, there had been a vast sum of money donated for Florian and his family via an online platform.
This virtual fund was put forward by Jean Messiha, a renowned far-right media personality. So far, the donations have reached a mammoth total of nearly one million euros, almost five times more than what has been funded for Nahel’s family. The scenario right now is such that rewarding killers is deemed normal by those on the right-wing on the political spectrum of that country. One should wonder that why the standards of our world have fallen so low, such that murders are being met with approval and perception of right and wrong have been so altered within the human psyche. Is hatred fueling this twisted sense of judgement? Why is this hate so rampant?
A rehash of 2020
Nahel Merzouk was said to have averted several police arrest attempts prior to the day of his death. Moreover, the records kept on his judicial file were pretty negative. He was accused of driving without insurance and implementing fake license plates frequently. Presumably, he attempted to drive in spite of a red traffic light which ultimately led to him being shot. Whatever rule breaking Nahel did, it does not justify by any means killing a person since the teenager certainly did not harm or attack anyone. The incident is equivalent to abuse and exploitation of power by those who possess it above ordinary civilians.
In the past couple of years, there has been growing violence by police in not just France but other countries as well. The shocking part is that such incidents have taken place in those developed nations which are generally perceived as being ‘democratic’ and front-runners of human rights. The brutal killing of George Floyd - an African American - in 2020 by a police official led to mass demonstrations across the United States which later became known as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Many believe that these protests played a part in turning the tide against the then president Donald Trump (2020 was an election year for the country). Three years later, we see similar events unleashing in France over the murder of yet another person of colour.
With the Ukraine war picking up the headlines in juggernaut news sources like CNN and BBC, many of the world’s important issues are either not being thoroughly discussed or put to the sidelines. A prominent example of this is Israel. The incidents in Israel, especially in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, have become more violent in 2023 where frequent raids have been conducted against the Palestinians who are located there. On 4 July 2023, the Israeli police have conducted their biggest raids ever on the West Bank which resulted in the deaths of around ten Palestinians while the wounded figures have exceeded hundred. Of course, this is just one example of many that happened in the past and what’s more to come in the future. Experts like Noam Chomsky have dubbed Israel as an ‘apartheid regime’.
Global South: Not innocent either
Similar scenarios can be found in India as well, where the majority Hindus tend to look down upon the Muslim minorities. The infamous killings of several Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 have been termed as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘state terrorism’ by many. The right wing nationalist party in India - which goes by the name of BJP - currently holds power in the country under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi. Extremist policies have fueled Hindu nationalism over many years and perpetuate paranoia the majority community regarding practitioners of Islam.
Religious division has contributed towards the establishment of a hate culture which is taking place in the form of violence. A very recent example of this can be the ongoing ethnic clashes in Manipur between the Meitei people and the Kukis together with the Zo people. The Kukis and Zo - they represent a Christian majority - are allied against the Meities and demand an independent state comprising of Christians only.
India’s western neighbor Pakistan is no less either when it comes to prejudices against minority, except that the situation in Pakistan is a reverse of what’s happening in India. Pakistan has always been a Muslim majority country since its independence in 1947 and Hindus are very rare to find these days in that nation. But those who are living there encounter inequality as an inevitable reality in their lives. Even sports in Pakistan is not free of religious discrimination, as is evident with the case of retired Pakistani spinner Danish Kaneria. Former Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar - who played alongside the spinner - said in an interview in 2019 of how several of Kaneria’s teammates mistreated him just because he was a Hindu. “When I was playing I did not have the courage to speak on these matters but after Shoaib bhai’s comments, I do,” said Kaneria, now 42.
It is imperative to perceive that education is not just the textbook chores but rather, the conceiving of morals and values and principles
Too late for social redemption?
The problems that we are facing right now trace back generations prior to the present times. Discrimination is one of those problems that has deep roots in history. Even though the practices of slavery had been put to an end in the aftermath of the American civil war, racism and harassment against people of color persisted heavily. Now many argue that these issues significantly improved over the past years, however recent events point evidence to the contrary. The concern of increasing racism should not just be among people in the West, but also for the residents of global South. The bitter reality is that we who live in the subcontinent often tend to overlook the various problems of discrimination that are persistent in large scale within our societies. Often in the rural areas, parents who have a daughter with black skin encounter an arduous task of finding a suitor.
The very first step in getting rid of a certain issue is to first acknowledge its existence. A lion’s share of the population in the global south continue to remain oblivious to these matters and are quick to point out the flaws of the Western nations. While it is very much obvious that the West is far from perfect, they still have a relatively tolerant society with the existence of democracy to some extent. Concealing one’s deficiencies for fear of admission of guilt and cowering underneath the skirts of self-righteousness are often the major obstacles in the path of self-improvement.
Hitherto, for there to be a fundamental alteration in the functional system of our societies, the very first change should initiate from the roots. The roots in this case are certainly families from where the core education of the present generation must be implemented. It is imperative to perceive that education is not just the textbook chores but rather, the conceiving of morals and values and principles. We must absolutely make sure that the present generation learns to adapt in the modern day society accordingly with the perspective of seeing all human beings as equal regardless of skin color, religion, ethnicity and gender. Only then can we set up a positive example for this generation to carry on towards the next one and thus begin a cycle of positivity.
* Chowdhury Taoheed Al Rabbi is a student of BUP