If we create a climate of hatred, we shouldn’t be surprised when we later have to face the bitter consequences.
The extremists who joined Daesh didn’t appear out of nowhere but were the product of communities and sub-cultures where hatred of the West and intolerance of difference had become the norm.
Daesh didn’t just hate Christians and Jews; the worst of their violence was unleashed against Shia and ordinary Muslims who didn’t share their evil views.
Soon after ISIS gained strength in Iraq and Syria, they launched a series of attacks against mosques in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Muslim states. In Bahrain and elsewhere, Sunni and Shia Muslims rightly responded by holding joint prayer sessions and demonstrating their solidarity against Daesh’s hateful, intolerant views.
The terrible terrorist attacks against mosques in New Zealand during which 50 people were killed while at prayer come from the same rejected species of hatred. The killer was a white supremacist who had fantasized online about ridding his country of Muslim immigrants. In America and Europe, similar sick individuals have staged attacks against synagogues, mosques and other places of worship. We should be deeply outraged about such attacks by racist individuals; not just because Muslims were the victims, but because such hatred of humanity is a threat against us all, whether Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus.
In Bahrain, we had a bitter taste of this sectarian hatred in the months after 2011. Extremist figures on both sides used horrible language against Shias or Sunnis – and of course the Ayatollahs of Iran were ready and waiting to exploit such hatred; distributing guns and explosives to radical groups who went off and murdered policemen and placed bombs outside malls and children’s playparks.
After the 2001 9/11 attacks, terrorism and fanaticism came to be seen as a “Muslim problem”. It is a Muslim problem and a lot of progress has been made across the Islamic world in addressing this problem and banishing extremist ideas – but we now know that it isn’t only a Muslim problem. In India dozens of attacks have been staged by Hindu extremists against ordinary Muslims; in Israel we have seen radical settlers resorting to murder and terrorism; but in America and the West we have also seen far-right extremism spreading like a disease.
In European states known for their liberal traditions, extreme-right parties have moved from the radical fringes and into the mainstream, picking up significant numbers of seats in national parliaments. Thousands of neo-Nazis and white supremacists have taken to the streets in Germany, the United States and France inciting violence and hatred against immigrants and Muslims.
In Bahrain and the Arabian Gulf there is much more to be done to crack down against various kinds of radicalism and terrorism; banishing them from cyberspace, blocking funding from hostile states, and encouraging a culture of tolerance and mutual respect. But in America, Europe and around the world there must be similar efforts to crack down against all forms of racism, religious hatred and fanaticism. Refugees fleeing conflict and violence must be welcomed and assisted, not unjustifiably treated as criminals and terrorists and demonized by the media and politicians who should know much much better.
These extremists have in common their belief that different races and religions cannot coexist. This belief is rooted in ignorance. Nations like Bahrain are perfect examples of how Shia, Christians, Sunnis, Hindus, Jews and citizens of a hundred different nations can amicably coexist – despite the efforts of a hateful minority to thwart this social model.
We must adopt a zero-tolerance approach for such hatred and incitement to violence, wherever this may be and whatever the supposed agenda. These fanatics aim to set humanity against each other. Only when we unite against them and their ugly worldview can we enjoy a world which is free of their evil.