An evil that is metastasising in a lethal fashion across the face of our planet is the culture of hate. If the spectre of global warming threatens humankind’s physical existence, the rise of hate has become a scourge to the very soul of humanity.
Ruthlessly exploiting opportunities that a strife-ridden world has presented, a clutch of leaders in powerful nations have embraced this culture. They have done this with incredible cynicism. They have abdicated their moral obligations, their conscience, their compassion for the distressed. Obsessing only with power, they are turning the world into an inferno of horror and mayhem.
Yes, it is normal for politicians to covet power. But if that power is not employed in the service of humanity, what is the point? If global leaders ignore the importance of the idea that they need to live beyond their own selves and serve a higher cause, the world cannot be saved from its present incontinent descent into a pit of abject misery.
We cannot escape the fact that diversities among human beings in the form of race, colour, religion, and ethnicity are the things that God has created. Our creator did not do so with the intent that we should be demonising and dehumanising races and ethno-religious groups different from ours.
Three recent horrors come to mind when we ponder upon the hate culture.
The most recent one is the mindless act of terror in Sri Lanka—which ISIS has claimed responsibility for—carried out by suicide bombers targeting worshippers in several churches that killed scores of innocent people.
A little more than two months ago, the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, perpetrated by a votary of a white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant, that killed at least 50 innocent people, convulsed the whole world. In the aftermath of the shootings, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s compassion and empathy towards the tiny beleaguered Muslim community elevated her status among leaders of other developed nations.
The third episode that comes to mind is the shooting in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2018 by an anti-Semitic man named Robert Bowers. Eleven people were killed. Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf said: “These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans.”
People of all faiths, it seems, are under attack. Other than the evident threat of white supremacists, the fact is that Muslims have been under the world media’s glare because it is our community that has been the most fertile ground for recruitment of terrorists.
Before we criticise others, we, as Muslims, need to look into our own soul. We have let a deranged, fringe group smear and debase us all over the world. In the name of false loyalty to Islam, they are trampling upon the core tenets of Islam. These groups, that go under the rubric of “jihadists”, have taken to killing innocent people in the name of saving and promoting Islam.
They are utterly indifferent to the harm their acts are bringing on their fellow Muslims who have nothing to do with their perverse and diabolical ideas. They are the reason why the vast majority of Muslims get a bad name. Just think about the grievous harm the 9/11 attacks brought on Muslims living in America and other western countries.
We, as Muslims, have an urgent moral and spiritual duty to fight and eviscerate these misguided terror groups. We need to affirm clearly and forcefully that Islam is a tolerant faith—that its essence is peace. In the mosques, our imams need to talk about what it means to be a good human being. They need to talk about the gentle life our Holy Prophet (PBUH) lived.
As Bangladeshis, we can say with humility that our record when it comes to the way we treat other communities compares well with what is happening in our vicinity. It was so timely, in this holy month of Ramadan, that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a passionate appeal to the people to cultivate interfaith goodwill and harmony. “The Creator will decide what is good or bad, and what is right or wrong. The Almighty did not task human beings with that responsibility,” she said.
Unfortunately, the violence and insecurity in some of the conflict zones today have triggered flows of migrants to countries like America and some European countries. In turn, this has led to the growth of a very aggressive, exclusionary breed of nationalism.
Another issue we need to note is that there is a lamentable lack of courageous and charismatic leaders who can stand up against the hate culture. We do not have leaders today like Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela who had a unifying vision.
In our subcontinent, during the partition era, Gandhi and Jinnah were the main forces against communalism. Desperate to prevent the breakup of India, Gandhi got Mountbatten to try out his idea that Jinnah be made India’s first prime minister which he believed was the only way to keep India united. Jinnah’s total freedom from communal prejudice was universally accepted. The plan failed because of the reservations of several top-ranking Congress leaders. Had Pakistan followed Jinnah’s vision, affirmed in his great Constitutional assembly speech of August 11, 1947, Pakistan’s destiny would have been much brighter. He said all communities would be “citizens and equal citizens of one state”—that “Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims.”
A very popular quotation of modern times, usually attributed to the British parliamentarian Edmund Burke, has never been more relevant than in the context of today’s world: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Ziaus Shams Chowdhury is a former ambassador.