When intolerance rears its ugly head
The thing that I would like to call to our collective attention today is what is known as the narcissism of small differences. Going by Wikipedia, this little theory states that communities which are closely tied to each other are more likely to engage in feuds and mutual ridicule compared to populations of people who are more different from each other.
In simple words, people who share and have a lot in common, such as a common homeland, common interest, or common religion, will find much more things to hate and fight about than people who have absolutely nothing in common.
Here’s an example of this inaction -- whenever two football fans talk about football, especially if they support opposing teams (a la Brazil vs Argentina / Manchester United vs Chelsea), they will pick and fight each other like rabid dogs, especially compared to someone who watches football and someone who doesn’t. For a more depressing and alarming example, look to the recent comments made by the leader of Hefazat-e-Islam.
Recently, Shah Ahmed Shafi has demanded that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a community which is 100,000 people strong in our country, be declared non-Muslims immediately. He and his party have demanded that the religious congregation of the Ahmadiyya people be stopped. Otherwise, and I quote, Muslims will face various problems in their social and religious life.
Imagine the gall of this man to incite hate crimes against a group of people who abjectly share the same God he does. The narcissism of small differences then rears its ugly head.
What’s tragic is what happened following this announcement. 50 people were injured in a coordinated attack by hardline Islamist groups soon after. Amidst the chaos and confusion, in an effort to stave off public unrest, their three-day religious festival “jalsha” was cancelled.
Let us then imagine the message that this sends throughout the cortices of the country, through the mind of every man, woman, and child, who are possessed of “minor differences.” The message is quite simply clear -- conform or die. Conform or be pushed. Leave or we will make you leave.
In the past several years, we have seen the brutality of an unimaginable degree being done in our country in the name of Islam. There was the Holey Artisan attack, which I am sure none of us will ever forget, as well as the subsequent attempts at terrorism.
Before that, there was the murder of Avijit Roy, Xulhaz Mannan, and many, many more. While I do not put the blame of these murders on the hands of any political party, many are complicit in creating an atmosphere where such religiously motivated murders can thrive, and, while not actively supported, are brushed off with “well, those people had it coming.”
I’d like to finish this article with a quote about Martin Niemoller: First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.
Zubier Abdullah is an engineer and a short story writer.