Libertatem Magazine - - Content - By NADA ZAIM FARUQI

Ase­nior friend from col­lege who is now stay­ing in Aus­tralia nar­rated a story a cou­ple of days back that evoked a fiery quest in me that re­fuses to die. She is a vis­i­bly Mus­lim woman who wears the head­scarf. That day as she was com­mut­ing on Sydney trains af­ter work, a mid­dle-aged man sat be­hind her and started say­ing Je­sus' name aloud and she in her heart said, "Peace be upon him" (this is how Mus­lims ad­dress the Prophets) un­til his chant­ing be­came un­com­fort­able. As she ig­nored him and spoke to her fa­ther back home she re­al­ized that he was mim­ick­ing her. She hung up the call and ig­nored him which was fol­lowed by him hurl­ing the choic­est of abuses at her like, "You are a ter­ror­ist", "Bloody Mus­lim", etc. The rest, she said, she couldn't re­pro­duce.

As much as sto­ries like this one re­flect the sheer sense of "in­di­vid­u­al­ism" in the on­look­ers on whose watch peo­ple are ha­rassed with­out them bat­ting an eye­lid, they also seem to spit right in the faces of those mi­nori­ties that are "the other" to make them re­al­ize that they do not mat­ter. If this was not bizarre enough, there are also peo­ple out there, well-ex­posed and fairly well-read in­cluded, that com­pletely write off such in­ci­dents as "me­dia cre­ation,"

"ar­ti­fi­cial hype", etc. Their an­swer to the on­go­ing in­san­ity is: log out and take a deep breath. In this age of in­for­ma­tion which hit a new low in 2016, with Brexit and Donald Trump ris­ing to power in the United States of Amer­ica which was pre­ceded by the rise of far-right in other na­tion-states such as In­dia it­self; that has also been termed by the Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary as "post-truth", the clear lines of dis­tinc­tion be­tween the op­pres­sor and the op­pressed, vic­tim and the per­pe­tra­tor, ruler and the sub­ject, seem to have blurred. In this con­text, how does one un­der­stand the rise of right-wing par­ties across na­tions? Where ex­actly did those cracks lie in the pre­vi­ous par­ties' rule that led the in­tel­lec­tu­ally par­a­lyzed ones to take over the reins of na­tion-states? Frus­tra­tion aris­ing out of the fear of los­ing one's iden­tity cou­pled with deepseated anger; was a po­tent mix in this rather re­cur­ring pat­tern of right-wingers tak­ing over. Re­li­gion, amidst all this, plays the role that it is least sup­posed to do: cap­i­tal­iz­ing on pub­lic fear. Kara­mat­ul­lah K. Ghauri in his ar­ti­cle "Fas­cism Knock­ing at Amer­ica's Door" pub­lished in a fort­nightly The Milli Gazette in its is­sue of 1-15 De­cem­ber, 2016, writes: "Trump's can­di­dacy had started as noth­ing more than a joke. A re­al­ity tele­vi­sion man who also hap­pened to be a bil­lion­aire show­man with a highly tainted rep­u­ta­tion seemed to be look­ing for a good time on the po­lit­i­cal stage be­fore bow­ing out with a hur­rah. The news me­dia laughed at, and ridiculed, him for yet an­other of his cheap pub­lic­ity stunts… But look­ing back with the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, the re­al­ity tele­vi­sion buf­foon wasn't play­ing pranks but, in ac­tual fact, play­ing on the sen­si­tive chords of a racist Amer­ica." Speak­ing of the role of racism and re­li­gious big­otry, he writes: "But racism and re­li­gious big­otry may be sur­prise news only to those with lit­tle or no knowl­edge of the peo­ple, the so-called pi­o­neers, who had ini­tially set­tled the New World. Those who came from Europe in the 17th century to set­tle in the new land, claimed it in the name of God. The slo­gan was that it had been given to them to build a 'New Jerusalem' a 'shin­ing city on the hill' that would be the be­gin­ning of a new era of Chris­tian dom­i­na­tion. So in­spired by their dog­matic re­li­gious be­liefs were those early set­tlers that they did not call them­selves im­mi­grants or set­tlers but "pil­grims." En­dowed with their God-given sanc­tion, the 'pil­grims' slaugh­tered the Na­tive Amer­i­cans, the so-called Red In­di­ans, with a fe­roc­ity that could only be de­scribed as bes­tial­ity and ut­ter sav­agery. Mil­lions of the na­tives were dec­i­mated with im­punity be­cause the Chris­tian clergy gave a blank cheque for that slaugh­ter. The church jus­ti­fied the blood-let­ting in the name of purg­ing the Godgifted land of the un­civ­i­lized 'hea­thens.'" We see how re­li­gion is used as a tool to per­pet­u­ate atroc­i­ties and an­ni­hi­late a class of hu­mans that are seen as sub-hu­mans by the fel­low hu­mans them­selves. It is both in­ter­est­ing and shock­ing, in a sin­gle breath, to re­al­ize how the role of re­li­gion has been tam­pered with by peo­ple that rely solely on their base in­stincts. Sa­muel P. Hunt­ing­ton in his book "The Clash of Civ­i­liza­tions and the Re­mak­ing of the World Or­der" writes: "In the late 1980s the com­mu­nist world col­lapsed, and the Cold War in­ter­na­tional sys­tem be­came his­tory. In the post-cold War world, the most im­por­tant dis­tinc­tions among peo­ples are not ide­o­log­i­cal, po­lit­i­cal, or eco­nomic. They are cultural. Peo­ples and na­tions are at­tempt­ing to an­swer the most ba­sic ques­tion hu­mans can face: Who are we? And they are an­swer­ing that ques­tion in the tra­di­tional way hu­man be­ings have answered it, by ref­er­ence to the things that mean most to them. Peo­ple de­fine them­selves in terms of an­ces­try, re­li­gion, lan­guage, his­tory, val­ues, cus­toms, and in­sti­tu­tions. They iden­tify with cultural groups: tribes, eth­nic groups, re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties, na­tions, and, at the broad­est level, civ­i­liza­tions. Peo­ple use pol­i­tics not just to ad­vance their in­ter­ests but also to de­fine their iden­tity. We know who we are only when we know who we are not and of­ten only when we know whom we are against."

This sense of the 'other' and find­ing ways to jus­tify the crude­ness of this creed by putting up the façade of 'pro­tec­tion­ism' is be­ing per­pet­u­ated and in­stilled in our psy­ches for more chaos, more cries, more loss of life and limb and more money and po­lit­i­cal mileage. This is not the World we want. Not on our watch.

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