By Manahil Hassan, March 23 2020—
As children, we are oblivious to all the bloodshed and misery that makes up the lives of so many people around the world. It is at this age that ignorance truly is bliss. But, as you grow up, your bubble pops and you experience a rude awakening. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how much your parents try and protect you, — you are not sheltered anymore. All the misery, darkness and bloodshed that is glued to issues of nationalism, colonialism and lust for power suddenly reveal themselves. These unfavorable aspects of our lives integrate themselves into our daily routines until racism is something we learn to expect from others as our dignity and respect for humanity slowly deteriorates.
My point, however, is that as a Muslim girl, friend, sister and daughter, I experience issues like this daily. I may not receive explicit comments about my religion or be the target of hate speech, but the matter of fact is that these issues remain an integral part of my daily routine. I watch on the television how Muslims are being persecuted in the Xinjiang region of China. I watch how people refer to the hijab, a head covering so respected in my religion, as a sign of oppression. I am forced to watch Muslims in India get murdered, burnt alive, raped and deported to return a nation back to its nationalist origins.
For the last six years, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nationalist party has been ever growing. Over the years, they have become more dominant and have caused a lot of heartache to Muslims not only in India, but around the world.
In February 2002, Gujarat was burning in flames as 1000 Muslims were burnt and murdered. While the Prime Minister’s backyard was burning, the leaders of the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, encouraged Hindus to teach us Muslims a lesson. While this was happening, Modi himself referred to the relief camps which housed innocent women, men and children, as child-producing factories.
Eighteen years later, it seems as though nothing has changed. Once again, beginning on Feb. 23, Muslims in India began fearing for their lives. Their houses were burnt down. Their sacred places of worship were demolished and disregarded. Now, women are being raped, people are being beaten to death and human beings are burnt alive. Once again, Modi’s backyard was in flames while he continued preparations for someone who clearly deserved more attention — Donald Trump. To add on to this questionable behavior, Modi finally acknowledged the murders through twitter of all platforms.
It is already so demeaning that Muslims all over the world must watch as their brothers and sisters are brutally bludgeoned to death but the cherry on top is that Modi can’t even release a statement expressing his condolences for the deceased. Instead, he tweets two sentences saying that “Peace and harmony are central to our ethos (…) It is important that calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest.” There were no apologies, no compensation for the loss of human life. The solution to all these problems was one tweet.
There are many reasons that Modi’s nationalist movement in India irks me to say the least.
Firstly, I will point out that I don’t see anything wrong with nationalism so long as it is executed in a reasonable way. I love identity. As a Muslim, I think it is vital to have your own identity not just for Islam but for everyone. Identity makes us unique. It only becomes problematic when you develop an “us versus them” mentality. Not only does it create a divide in a nation that should be cohesive in the first place, but it can lead to racist tendencies and actions to surface. History has shown that developing this ethnically nationalist mentality is detrimental to everyone. The Holocaust and the Nazi regime showed this. Poland and a few other nations have resorted to extremes to express their nationalistic views too and now Modi’s tyrannical regime has developed this mentality as well. To put it lightly, extreme ethnic nationalist views are detrimental to how people feel about themselves and any groups they may identify with.
Another reason I have an issue with this nationalistic movement is because it is making it okay to use Muslims as scapegoats and to treat them however anyone may wish. We are not objects. We are human beings who, just like everyone else, have dignity, respect and feelings. Muslims are fearing for their lives right now in a place they call home. I have grown up watching people treat Muslims like dirt because they feel we deserve it or because we are called terrorists. No human being deserves this treatment and genocide against human beings should never be rationalized or looked over but just like we all feared that is what’s happening now which leads me to my third reason.
Why is no one speaking out about this? After the Holocaust happened, everyone chanted “Never Again.” It seems to me, however, that no one understands what those words truly mean. Modi is murdering human beings right now and no one has attempted to sanction the Prime Minister’s behavior. Is it okay to kill people just so long as they’re Muslim? Is it okay to kill people just because they hinder your progress towards your nationalistic goals? No. It is not okay and people need to speak up about this issue.
It is no longer enough to just post a story on your Instagram to show you support whatever movement is going on. If we really support human rights and democratic freedoms, especially in democratic nations, then we need to stand up and do what is right.
The victims of this uncivilized attack need to be protected and only we can help if we speak up about this issue.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.