A strange phenomenon has taken social media in its grip and the phenomenon is such that it has shaken the soul and minds of conscious people. The phenomenon concerns deepening sectarian divide and the explicit dramatization thereof on social media by religious preachers across the sectarian spectrum. Social media has virtually been rendered a fight club where some of the preachers and speakers from different sects thwart arguments, allegations and even abuses against one another with a degree of shamelessness that was unheard of in Kashmir.
What takes off as a tiff and minor academic difference or a disagreement turns into a harangue of violence, character assassination and unending sequence of cacophonies, rebuttals and rivalries.
Result? Public discord, hatred and growing divide between people, scholars and organisations alike.
When people consume these hate-stuffed and inflammable visuals and speeches on social media, it makes people attuned to radicalism and their minds and patterns of thought are modified in ways beyond normal. What about the children and teenagers who consume this hatred and in doing so unconsciously learn it? The destructive effect these visuals have on the overall psychological and spiritual well-being of young and old alike is too deep and wide to be described in words.
The saga of inter-religious and intra-religious schisms is nothing new. The history of religious persecution, bloodletting for God’s sake and conceptualising the religious other as enemy/lesser human/enemy of God and state has been a dominant historical leitmotif. The earliest and the fiercest battles between the Church and state and between different churches themselves characterize the history of ancient Europe. These battles and disagreements continued to augment as the world of Christianity encountered the world of Islam. With the Islamic ascendancy, the schisms between scholars gained new height as they battled for and battled against power. Behind the veneer of trifling scholarly disagreements, they covertly fought for personal interests. These disagreements and divisions were such that they continue to echo in the Islamic world to this date. People lost their lives, mosques were dashed to ground and the word of God was made a playfield for rhetorical gymnastics just to maintain personal stature and avoid conceding to truth found in traditions except theirs’. The sense of absoluteness and insulation from error are the cornerstones on which stand the statues of intolerance and bigotry. To acknowledge that truth may be found in a tradition beyond one’s own and to simultaneously leave the possibility of error in one’s understanding open at all times safeguards one from sinking into arrogance and classifies others as creatures of lesser intellectual degree.
The intolerance and propaganda against one another that is now thriving on social media and elsewhere has its roots located at more than one place. Bias, which we inherit from familial upbringing, social influence, peer pressure and mostly from our teachers blinds us to perspectives other than ours. This monolithic vision of truth driven by the lions of bias steers man deep into hatred and antagonism. Something which then translates into active hate spewing in public life by them.
Bias is inevitably accompanied by ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding, which augments the problem of reconciliation between different perspectives and points of view and escalates differences, divides and discord. Even a cursory look at the content published on social media in the name of religion shows that most of the speakers who keep the space aflame are in pursuit of self-assertion, victims of identity crisis and at times deliberately spark the debate with their fiery and controversial statements. Do we not see how people heckle each other, catch them by their collar and have street play demonstrations of their antagonism they hatch on social media? Mediocrity has become the norm, pulling down one another is seen as scholarship and proving one’s opponent wrong is seen as an unparalleled service to the religion of God. These things haven’t happened overnight, nor can these things be ignored.
Social media has just provided an easily accessible platform to those enthusiasts whose sole ministry is to ignite the passions of people and to stir them against one another while they continue to enjoy the show from their pedestals of ignorance and arrogance. The consequences of this behaviour are not presaged properly and the outright anarchy that this might erupt into is rarely accounted for. But the dangers are not imaginary but very much near and palpable to those who have the foresight to peep into the consequences of events as they unfold.
More serious than the noise and hue of these half-learned and self-acclaimed scholars is the deafening silence of those learned and serious people who understand the swing of time, are well versed in learning and wisdom and carry a vision transcending trifling sectarian and petty peripheral issues. Theirs was a responsibility to keep these maddening debates under check by categorically declaring them as devious and detrimental, by speaking explicitly against this nonsense and condemn it by word and action. What has happened to the contrary? These elders and rein holders have let and set the things loose and their silence has amounted to consent to these diatribes and venom spewing discourses. People’s minds have been poisoned and the mantra of hating fellow humans for the love of God has become the tag line of almost all religious denominations. People need to sensitise themselves of the perils and ills of consuming this hate speech and being drunk of rhetoric rooted in zealotry.
They too must raise their voice, in whatever way possible, against the speeches and speakers that divide them and foist them against one another. We must rise to the occasion, to nullify and condemn these acts that thrive on and spread hatred and discord. United we stand, divided we fall.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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