The Immigration Of Hatred

The Immigration Of Hatred
This Ramadan, there were two hate incidents at the Markham mosque in Ontario. These cases added to the rising trend of Islamophobic violence in Canada. However, the two hate incidents were not perpetrated by the usual suspects – white supremacists whose narrative targets Muslims as the source of all that is wrong in their lives. The perpetrators instead were people of colour – 47-year-old Mohssen Bayani and 28 year old Sharan Karunakaran. This observation connects with various themes including “perceived grievances”, “lateral violence”, “weaponised victimhood”, and “non-binary thinking.”

For quite some time, I have been concerned about the public discourse on racism that is heavily focused on white supremacists. My argument has been to broaden that discourse to include casteism, tribalism, homophobia, and religious hatred that fester within people of colour (POC) communities. This means broadening the scope of our public discourse to recognise “lateral violence” when one minority group harbours animosities against another. Such groups fail to recognise that they are pawns in the hateful narrative stoked by highly intelligent and resourceful leaders and organisations. This is certainly the case for Indian immigrants who view Muslims with contempt and Pakistani immigrants who view Ahmadis with the same disdain. Hatred for the Muslim other or the Ahmadi other is institutionalised in these respective countries and is justified by large swathes of the people. To put it concisely, several people immigrate the hatred from their respective home countries when they immigrate to the West.

Broadening the public discourse to target hatred within POC groups will not necessarily emerge from white activists, out of concern that minority communities already face the brunt of white nationalism and white supremacism. Yet, if left unchecked, the hatred within POC communities will gradually eat away at the social fabric and erode strong democratic institutions. This means that instead of upholding their oath to their host countries, they pay allegiance to Hindutvist nationalism or Islamist chauvinism. Such hatred and racism within POC communities will end up taking equal space with white supremacism, as the white population diminishes over time. The decline in the white demographic has been captured by comedian Russell Peters, as comedy can capture what may not be expressed out of fear of causing offense or to avoid being labelled as a “white supremacist” on social media. Thus, it is imperative that internal voices from POC communities rise to counter the hatred within their respective communities.
The solution to hatred within POC communities will not come from the younger immigrant cohort that has imbibed far-right narratives instigated in recent decades

It is important to maintain strong democratic institutions. Such institutions are weakened when we vote for a candidate based on ethnic or religious affiliation or when “activists” threaten academic freedom. This was the case when several Canadian academics including Dr. Chinnaiah Jangam were harassed and threatened for critiquing Hindutvist supremacism. In the U.S., death threats have been given to academics who criticise Hindu nationalism. Often such academics are labelled as “Hinduphobic or anti-Indian”, which reflects “weaponised victimhood” where the oppressors claim perpetual victimhood for themselves. This is not unique to Hindutvist groups, as far-right Israelis strategically silence any criticism of Israeli apartheid through charges of anti-Semitism. Similarly, while far right homophobic Muslims have seemingly toned down their rhetoric, some in the past have peddled the death penalty for homosexuality whilst claiming victimhood for themselves. In short, Hindutvists, far right Israelis, and Islamists make for strange bedfellows as they weaponise victimhood.

The reason behind hatred in POC communities lies in unresolved “perceived grievances” that have been manufactured by narrative builders who use the past to limit the future. They mine for incidents from the age of empires to stoke their “us versus them” narrative in the age of democratic nations. For instance, the Hindutvist populists in India have been promoting Hindu nationalism by branding Muslims as the fifth column. They do so by building a selective narrative on the past Muslim Mughal rule and invasions. Ironically, while the Hindutvist ire falls hardest on Muslim minorities, cordial relations are maintained with countries like Uzbekistan, Iran, and Afghanistan from whence emerged past invasions. Such institutionalised nationalism and hatred are brought to the West through immigration. Hindutvist comments on social media shed light on racist generalisation when they pejoratively label Muslims and Pakistanis as “madrassachaps” and “terrorists”. Similarly, Islamists bring their institutionalised discrimination against Ahmadis or the LGBTQ as they perpetuate social ostracism against these communities.

The solution to hatred within POC communities will not come from the younger immigrant cohort that has imbibed far-right narratives instigated in recent decades. To put it concisely, youth are not always progressive and the old are not always conservative. Rather, the solution will emerge from internal critics that work for the betterment of their respective communities instead of self-promotion. These internal critics would recognise that we cannot be dictated by past grievances. Instead, they actively build a better future by sustained engagement with the “other” in the present. A good example of the peace between communities arises from the Sikh community who despite historical persecution by the Muslim Mughal emperor remain clear that their opposition was to the Mughal emperor and not Muslims. It is this “non-binary” approach that holds the key to a better future.

To recapitulate, there is no need for immigrants to cling on to the hatred that festers in their home countries. They have an opportunity for a fresh start away from all the populist rhetoric. In this regard, the biggest threat to Hindutva fanaticism comes from Hindus who push back at hateful narratives. Such folks are pejoratively labelled as “secular” Hindus. Similarly, the biggest threat to Islamist chauvinism emerges from Muslims of various stripes who condemn the inhumanity of groups like ISIS. Many Indians and Pakistanis in the South Asian diaspora forge strong inter-community connections despite populist narratives. Such voices need to be strengthened for we must retain a haven for minorities within minorities. This entails pushing back at not just white supremacism but also hatred within POC communities. Thus, anti-racism initiatives will not be complete until they have active POC members that call out hatred within their own communities.