Fear, hate and prejudice
This particular less pleasant side of the USA was known and seen, but like the dark side of the moon it was ignored for the most part. Now starkly exposed by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the startling thing about it is its familiarity.
In Lahore, recently, the Mall was blocked by a rally several hundred strong. The participants were demanding the removal of the death sentence against Mumtaz Qadri.
A report covering the rally in this newspaper explained that Qadri had confessed to murdering Salmaan Taseer, the person he was hired to protect. One reader threw all his ire into a comment by stating: ‘I think you are a Qadiyani, that is why you are speaking such rubbish against Mumtaz Qadri. Shame on you if you call yourself a Muslim. You will be questioned after death!’
Fear, hate and prejudice, these weapons are used all over the world, purportedly in support of ideologies that are in actual fact opposed to all three.
Some people stand up to this fear and hatred. Salmaan Taseer stood up against the blasphemy law and was murdered by Qadri.
Arish Singh, a Sikh man was escorted out of Donald Trump’s rally, as was Rose Hamid, the Muslim woman who stood in silence behind Trump wearing a shirt that said ‘Salam. I come in peace’. Singh had heckled Donald Trump and unfurled a banner that read: ‘Stop Hate’. The crowd chanted ‘USA! USA!’ as Singh was escorted out. It booed Hamid and yelled ‘Get out! Get out!’ as she was led away. After Singh was removed, Trump made one of his irrational comments, saying, ‘We got to do something folks because it’s not working.’ After Hamid was led out, he said, ‘There is hatred against us that is unbelievable. It’s their hatred, it’s not our hatred.’ Both statements included keywords and phrases calculated to get a response from a mob whose xenophobia had been fanned to fever pitch.
The ideology Trump pretends to support is ‘the American way of life’, an ideology meant to adhere fearlessly to the principles of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. The blasphemy law supposedly supports Islam. Neither is true because neither the way of life nor Islam have anything in common with fear, hatred and prejudice.
An electoral candidate must identify something to use against his opponent and anyone else who opposes him. Trump has figured that he can use best xenophobia, which is alive to a varying extent in every country including the USA. Xenophobia has an irrational following, which means the arguments used to fan it are irrational, which suits someone like Trump just fine.
Of course it doesn’t have to be xenophobia. Pick a fear, any fear, and fan it enough to make it grow. Then coin rallying cries using the very terms used to fan the fear into existence. It’s a favourite trick amongst politicians and religious leaders. You get shunted out of a rally, you get slammed with the blasphemy law, you cut off your hand and present it to your local mullah, you get your life turned inside out because you disagree with some big shot… it’s all a result of some kind of fear, it happens all the time.
“Those responsible for the magazine are liable to death.” Maulana Abdul Aziz once said about Zubair Kasuri, editor of the fashion magazine Octane.
“You should know that at the moment they have at least 400 to 500 female suicide bombers in Waziristan and other tribal areas,” Maulana Abdul Aziz said, referring to the TTP. “The government should understand the situation and their demands,” urging the government of Pakistan to come to terms with the TTP which uses fear, hate and prejudice to bring death to innocents.
If only this country was a canal like the one that runs through Lahore. Once a year around this time the Lahore canal is drained for cleaning when it yields its silent load of filth, dead bodies, untreated sewerage and an immense amount of trash. If Pakistan was a canal, we could go back and dredge it free of the fear, hate and prejudice that has been spewed into it from the mouths of demagogues and hatemongers and allow it to run clean again.
It doesn’t matter that the American people pride themselves on their way of life and outlook. We had a better life too and just, intelligent leaders we could look up to, most conspicuously the man who created this country. Neither is recognizable now for what they really were after being shaped by the hands of religious bigots and demagogues, who now have a sizeable following. Donald Trump is beginning to sound uncannily like the rabid mullah from the mosque down the road, exuding fear, hate and prejudice. And like the mullah he has a following. The US needs to learn from Pakistan’s experience before it is too late.