Christchurch massacre was neither the first nor the last of its kind.
Xenophobia, the fear of the “other/alien” group that is suspected and then portrayed as an evil force likely to overtake/ oppress/ suppress you, has been used as an instrument, right from the dawn of civilization be it the Greek City states, the Romans, the Egyptians or the Persians, to grab and/ or cling to power. Be it the modern dictators or the “elected” rulers or those who were leading freedom struggles one sees that xenophobia has been “successfully” exploited and every time disasters like Christchurch or more deadly ones have been just round the corner.
Anti semetism or xenophobia against the jews has been used many times that resulted in horrific consequences for the jews especially the Holocaust brought about by Hitler’s Germany. Xenophobia has been a regular feature of the United States and the latest to use and exploit it is Donald Trump to ascend the throne. He has followed it up with the “wall” on the Mexican border and the ban on “immigration” of people from certain countries that happen to be Muslim (although the phraseology used has been different). Of late we have seen xenophobia against Muslims/ Islamophobia on the rise particularly after the 9/11 attacks on the United States and it has a direct connection with politics/ politicians. Several ideas/ theories and a fear/ phobia has been “generated” to create fear and hatred among the ordinary citizens and we are routinely witnessing violence against Muslims ranging from minor hate crimes, to massacres like the one at Christchurch or the likes of Rohingya genocide.
In the context of the Subcontinent we have been all along flirting with xenophobia of or or the other kind. Should we ask ourselves when we raised the cry of “Quit India” or ” Quit Kashmir” were we in someway playing around the xenophobic periphery, in the first case against the British/Christians and in the later case against the Dogras/ Hindus? Did Jinnah successfully exploit the fear against the Hindu majority to create Pakistan? To this question the answer is yes but another question that needs investigation is whether there existed some xenophobia in the subcontinent against the Muslims? What role did xenophobia play in the “expulsion” of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley of Kashmir? To what extent xenophobia/ Islamophobia has been responsible for the public lynchings of Muslims recently? Can we say xenophobia/ Islamophobia is responsible for the thrashing of Kashmiri Muslims at various places, in particular at Jammu, during the last one month?
There is another dimension to xenophobia that has been added of late. At many places politics has created and is thriving on the “idea” of a perpetual external filthy enemy with an “internal agent” typically and always a minority/ mostly described as the fifth column of the enemy. Power hungry politicians don’t waste a minute to exploit this permanent fear/ phobia/ hatred to their advantage. Israel/ Palestine is a prime case where the Zionist propaganda displays Gaza and West Bank residents as “external enemy” with Israeli/ Arab citizens as agents of that external enemy. It is an irony of history that a state was created and imposed upon a people who suffered the worst due to ante semetism/ xenophobia practized against them, that promotes xenophobia against the Palestinian people shamelessly. Saddam Hussein used the same phenomenon by propagating a Persian external enemy with a so called fifth column in Basra. The subcontinent has been and continues to work on this very “principle”. Kashmir represents a perfect case study.
With the advent of social media it has become easier to cherry pick follies/ crimes committed by individuals, isolated groups and twist/ manipulate/ morph things and force multiply them to influence young minds to spreading xenophobia/ Islamophobia and consequences/ tragedies are for all of us to see. It was horrifying to see the comments posted on the news of the Christchurch massacre on a widely read Indian newspaper. Almost 95 percent of the comments were pure xenophobic venom
I still hope that the global population rises to the occasion and addresses the issue of xenophobia in a coherent/ coordinated manner or else the horrors of Christchurch will be repeated with more ferocity and frequency. Let us not give up hope. Almost half of the US population voted against Donald Trump and almost similar is the case everywhere else.