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The vicious circle of racism

Mar 17,2019 - Last updated at Mar 17,2019

Once again, terror reared its ugly head, this time at two mosques in New Zealand. The identities of the terrorists and victims changed, the rest remained the same.

First and foremost, I express my condolences and I raise my hat to the people and government of New Zealand for their response to this tragedy. In particular, I salute Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose leadership shows her to be an outstanding role model for leaders in the 21st century.

It is also important at this moment to take a serious look at Islamophobia and reflect on how to stop or reverse it. Islamophobia is clearly on the rise and Muslim efforts to counter it seem ineffective, or at times counterproductive.

Part of the problem often faced by Muslims in the West is that they come from countries that are ruled by decree, not by process. Traditionally, they do not settle differences through legal recourse, but by appealing to the executive authority to redress their grievances.

For instance, when Salman Rushdie published his book Satanic Verses in 1988, Muslims who felt scandalised by it found absurd the suggestion that Margaret Thatcher, at the height of her power, could not ban the publication of the book by the stroke of a pen. This communication failure reinforced the Muslim community’s feeling of marginalisation and victimisation.

Of course, some would suggest that any attack against Muslims is a legitimate reaction to the violence committed by Muslim extremists, such as Daesh. In fact, a right-wing Australian senator has already suggested it, in a statement.

Such a disgusting remark, as the Australian prime minister described it, was equally common in the days when pogroms were carried out against Jews in Europe. People sought to justify pogroms by saying: “Jews must have done something to provoke it.”

The fact is that Muslims are not the only group to be victimised, though it is in the nature of victims to feel that they are unique in their suffering and to be offended at being compared to others. There is equally a rise of anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism, which can be lined to the resurgence of nationalism and populism in the world.

Ironically, even white supremacists feel vulnerable because, with globalisation and interracial marriages, they fear that blond-haired, blue-eyed people may disappear. There are politicians who fight and win elections on this platform.

Racism is a problem too deeply rooted and resilient to be faced by any one group on its own. We simply have to make common cause against it.

This is not an easy task. It means accepting that no race is superior, no religious faith is inferior and all people are equal in their human rights.

Taking a common stand means that we should all denounce racism, not only when it affects us or our community, but equally when it targets other people, even people whom we hate for reasons which, upon analysis, prove to be identical to those for which racists hate us.


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