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The Price of Hatred / Dr. Habib Siddiqui

In our time there is no denying of the
enormous influence of the social media employing web- and
mobile-based technologies to support interactive dialogue and
communication between organizations, communities and individuals.
Thus, mass communication which was once a very expensive avenue to
propagate one’s views is now almost a free item.  Social media
are also unregulated in most parts of our world, thus, allowing every
John or Jane Doe to express and share his or her views on any matter
big or small whether or not he or she is qualified or knowledgeable
on such matters. It is, therefore, possible that while expressing
one’s unfiltered views others can feel abused, demeaned and hurt.
And consequently, those feeling hurt, demeaned or abused can react
either proportionately or disproportionately, which can turn into
violence.

Consider, e.g., the latest case involving the posting of
highly inflammatory and offensive pictures in the Facebook by someone
named Uttam Barua, a Buddhist in Bangladesh. Consequently, angry mob
have ransacked some monasteries. There are rumors that Barua may have
been a foreign agent working for the Myanmar regime to incite such
violence.


In repressive and authoritarian societies where the government
controls most outlets of social media, its views define the
narratives on most matters. For years, thus, in places like Egypt,
Libya, Tunisia and Syria it was always those governments that had a
tight control on what needed to be fed and consumed for their public.
But with the social media like the Internet and Facebook, which could
not be controlled by the governments, the general public was no
longer willing to digest government narratives on any matter of
importance unquestioning. By offering an alternative source of
communication, the social media have triggered something like a
revolution of the mind, thus, freeing hundreds of millions of people
around our globe. Thus, one after another yesterday’s despots were
overthrown yielding place to the newly elected democratic leaders.
Probably, one of the days not too far from today, other despots like
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad would also be removed.


Social media can, however, as already hinted above, be abused
spreading lies and deceptions, promoting hatred and intolerance. And
we have been witnessing many such abuses of freedom of expression in
many western liberal democracies, especially in its treatment of
Islam and Muslims in the post-9/11 era.


According to the U.S. government accounts, the tragic event of
9/11 was brought about by terrorists that were linked with OBL’s
al-Qaeda. [Note: there are many credible engineering experts who
doubt the government narrative on this tragedy.] In spite of Bush
Jr.’s announcement that the religion of Islam had nothing to do
with this tragedy, it was no less of a person than his own attorney
general who would later go on to say that ‘Islam is a religion in
which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity
is a faith in which God sends His son to die for you.’ John
Ashcroft is an evangelical Christian and his bias is understandable,
although he later indicated that his remarks to Christian columnist
Cal Thomas did not “accurately reflect what I believe I said.”


Sadly, Ashcroft was not the lone Republican politician in this
media campaign against Islam and its adherents. Others like Giuliani,
Gingrich, Palin, King and Bachmann joined the hate campaign. Many of
these promoters of hatred are individuals with very flawed moral
fiber and their views on Islam revealed far more about their own evil
selves than anything else. And then there were others — intimately
tied up with the Zionists on the contentious Palestine-Israel debate
— who for their own religious or political beliefs or inclinations
jumped on the wagon of intolerance. They became the mouthpieces for
the land-grabbing Zionists in Israel. Nine-Eleven for them was a
Reichstag Fire moment to launch an all out war against the Muslim
world so that not only could Israel’s illegal annexation of
Palestine with settlements and dehumanization of the Palestinian
people be sanctified the entire Muslim world would be brought down to
their knees as a subjugated people. They even planned for redrawing
the map of the Muslim world. However, with the wars in both
Afghanistan and Iraq going wrong, dragging valuable American
resources and killing thousands of soldiers, their evil plan had to
be shelved.


The intellectual leadership for Islamophobia and intolerance of
anything Islamic was provided by some pen-pushing frauds and
charlatans who mastered the art of cherry-picking Qur’anic verses
out of context to suit their ludicrous theories about Islam. Thus,
came disingenuous and greedy guys like Ibn Warraq and others, who
basically repackaged the centuries-old missionary polemical writings
against Islam to justify Islamophobia and bigotry against Islam. With
material support provided by powerful pro-Israeli Americans and
Europeans, virtually anyone (or so it seemed) who could ridicule
Islam soon became a media celebrity. In the post-9/11 era of
Islamophobia, they were to become the new faces of ‘experts’ on
Islam. 



Interestingly, many of these ‘experts’ (including some
with Arabic sounding names like Irshad Manji and Ibn Warraq, and
other Christian and Jewish zealots like Robert Spencer and Pamela
Geller, respectively) hardly know the language of the Qur’an. But
who dare question their expertise on Qur’an and Islam or the Muslim
world when they are promoted as experts in media mogul Rupert
Murdoch’s TV channels, tabloids, newspapers and magazines, and have
powerful advocates like Daniel Pipes and Ann Coulter!


But probably nothing was more sinister in this scheme of things
Islamophobic than the Jerusalem Summit, a think tank that was
sponsored by Michael Cherney Foundation, which provided the first
venue for anti-Muslim zealots (including Hindu and other extremists
from countries with records of deep intolerance against their Muslim
minorities) around the world to unite on a common agenda in Jerusalem
in 2003. The ideology of the Summit was summed up by its four-point
declaration: radical Islam is a threat to civilization, the United
Nations is a failure, Israel is in need of defense and the war on
terrorism is a righteous cause.


Lost in that mendacious campaign are the facts that it is Israel
which with its racist Likudnik Zionist leaders is a threat to every
Arab neighbor and the entire region, and it is the Palestinians,
Iranians and other Arabs who live in the Middle East that need
protection against Israeli terrorism, and that when it comes to
extremism – no religion has a monopoly there. All the extremists –
religious and non-religious alike – are a threat to civilization,
and they are the ones who need to be defeated. That is, secular
fundamentalists in France and other parts of Europe and the Americas
are no better than the Muslim Talibans of Afghanistan and Pakistan,
or the Hindu extremists in India, or the Buddhist extremists in
Myanmar and Cambodia, or the Christian extremists in the Philippines,
Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Serbia, or the Christian/Jewish Zionist
extremists in much of the western world. As a matter of fact because
of the support that many of these non-Muslim extremists (e.g., the
likes of Narendra Modi and L.K. Advani of India; Gingrich and
Bachmann in the USA, and so on and so forth) enjoy from the
government apparatus in their respective countries they are seemingly
more dangerous than most Muslim extremists who don’t enjoy such
support.


In essence, the neoconservative organizers and participants of the
Jerusalem Summit wanted nothing short of a civilization war with the
world of Islam. Fear of Islam and its people was exploited as one of
the most surreptitious and invisible powers to denigrate the religion
of nearly a quarter of humanity and encourage open promotion of
intolerance and hatred against Muslims.


It is because of such a common agenda that the limit of freedom of
expression to insult Islam is ever pushed to its newer heights where
anything and everything to do with Islam is a fair game. Thus, the
Danish Cartoons and the recently filmed ‘Innocence of Muslim’ are
only part of this long list of hatred and intolerances hurled against
the Muslim world. These are meant to provoke Muslims and ultimately
bring about a clash of civilizations. They also have powerful backers
with links to the citadels of power from Jerusalem/Tel Aviv to
Washington D.C. Many of these provocateurs are also criminals who
should have been locked up in the prison for the good of the society.


These hatemongering provocateurs ought to know that like anything
in our world there is always a limit to freedom. With freedom comes
responsibility. When their fists hit someone’s nose it is an abuse
of that freedom to stretch arms. Freedom cannot be a tool to promote
hatred and intolerance against anyone, and much less against a
religious community. Government cannot shy away from its
responsibility to punish the abusers of such freedom that breed
hatred and lead to violence, which can result in the deaths of
innocent human beings.


In recent months, we have witnessed quite a few of such
demonstrations of hatred against Muslims in the Internet, the
Facebook and the YouTube. What is interesting is that some of these
social media sites had clear guidelines against promoting
intolerance. However, when it came to insulting Islam and Muslims,
none of those guidelines seemed to matter, and those sites did not
feel obligated to remove such offensive postings. What a double
standard!


During the early days of latest extinction campaign against the
Rohingyas of Myanmar, I was simply shocked to see an overabundance of
highly inflammatory and offensive pictures and racist remarks posted
by Rakhine and Burmese Buddhists that were sure to pain most Muslims.
I pondered how could any person live with so much hatred against a
fellow human being? After all, hatred is taught and no one is born
hating anyone. Who have been teaching the Buddhist Rakhines and
Burmese to hate non-Buddhists? As I know better, in societies where
such evils are promoted, it is no longer an individual act but rather
a national project in which others are willing partners in such
crimes.


As I hinted earlier, authoritarian regimes use government
controlled media to manufacture and spread their lies. They can act
as the ultimate architect of genocide or crimes against humanity. For
years, within what was Burma, and known these days by the name
Myanmar, propagation of hatred against the Rohingyas, who are
ethnically and religiously different than the majority Buddhists, has
been part of the government campaign. Falsely depicted as outsiders,
land- and job-stealers, the Rohingyas have been robbed of their
citizenship in the land of their forefathers, and they have been
dehumanized to such an extent that no one dare say anything to
restore their legitimate rights in this Buddhist majority country. An
open display of racism and bigotry thus became a norm rather than an
exception.


The rape and grisly murder of a Buddhist woman was exploited as
what had triggered the ‘race riot.’ However, as Dr. Maung Zarni,
an expert on Myanmar, has recently mentioned there was no trace of
rape on that murdered Rakhine woman – Thida Htwe; and that one of
the so-called perpetrators of the crime Htet Htet (who was later
declared dead in his prison cell) was a Buddhist. And yet, Myanmar’s
Ministry of Information which micro-manages all official publications
and broadcasts went on to characterize incorrectly the three
perpetrators as ‘Muslims.’


The military regime has often been the greatest perpetrator of
such hateful crimes and then blamed others to incite race riots. I
won’t be surprised if we, one day, learn that the local government
officials and security forces in the Rakhine state were the
architects of this gruesome murder to incite Rakhine violence against
unarmed Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.


As a result of this targeted pogrom, thousands of Muslim owned
homes, businesses, shops, schools and mosques have been burned down
and destroyed; nearly a hundred thousand of the Rohingyas continue to
live without a shelter. No Muslims are now noticeable in places like
Akyab, the capital city. As I write their historic Jam-e Mosque is
torched by a Rakhine mob; and this, in spite of the government
imposition of the Section 144, which bans all movements of 5 or more
people in groups. While the Rakhines are allowed to roam around and
burn Rohingya homes, all the homeless Rohingyas are caged in camps
with no freedom to go out. Denied adequate food, many are starving to
death as a result of this extinction campaign. As to the casualty, we
may never know the number of deaths. Myanmar regime won’t share
that information. None of the perpetrators of the ten Tablighi
Muslims has yet been arrested while it is widely known that some 300
or so of the armed Rakhines attacked them in front of police and
security forces. It is no accident that human rights activists have
called the latest campaign as part of a wider ethnic cleansing
campaign that started since the time of Ne Win in 1962.


Can
the provocateurs of hatred and intolerance be taught to love their
targets or objects of hatred? Nelson Mandela wrote in his
autobiography No
one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin,
or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if
they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes
more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 
 I
wish Mandela is right.


Hatred and intolerance are unacceptable. They are like cancers and
need to be routed out one way or another. If unbridled freedom
promotes such cancers, a society is probably better off controlling
its deadly spread through painful radiation therapy before it is too
late.

Source KPN