The hate that bred in the 28-year-old Christchurch shooter took 50 lives and another 50 injured to satiate. If he had had his way, the list of victims would have been longer. The fallen are all peaceful human beings, who were far removed from whatever caused the hatred in the murderer. If each one of us were to take up cudgels for our minor or major grievances, few skulls would remain intact.
Haroon was extremely happy about the completion of his PhD and was looking forward to receiving his degree and visiting Pakistan. His wife, a PhD in business administration, is a working mother of a 13-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl
In a different part of the world and a hundred years after Confucius, the sagacious Socrates warned, “From the deepest desires often comes the deadliest hate.”
If I may add to these words, deadly hate gives birth to senseless violence. Only a sick mind can have a deep desire to eliminate every human being of a group that he hates. It is hard to comprehend any purpose in creating carnage of this magnitude where innocent people are slain, loved ones are lost, families are shattered and children are orphaned.
Among the fallen in Christchurch was Dr. Haroon Mahmood, the son of my first cousin. He was bright, cheerful and just forty, in the prime of his youth. He had gone to New Zealand five years ago on a scholarship to study for his PhD in Finance. He had departed with great hopes and high ambitions. He had completed his coursework and thesis, and was due to receive his well earned degree at a ceremony on the 3rd of May at Lincoln University this year. The family was delighted. His mother is recuperating from a knee replacement. He had requested her to come over for the graduation ceremony.
Instead, he was placed in a coffin box to be buried in the days following the atrocity. No mother should have to undergo such calamity.
Ironically this despicable incident took place in a mosque in town called Christ-Church, a city that should never have been a site of bloodshed in honour of its eponymous prophet of peace; a figure revered by Muslims and Christians alike. Among followers of all religions, Christ is revered by the adherents of these two religions alone.
Harry Leon Wilson wrote in his novel The Spenders, “And you forget that—that devil—suppose she’s as good as her threat?”
It seems that the dark devilish forces of hatred are making good on their threat of wickedness by running amok in their endeavour to triumph over whatever is good in this world and worth living for. At the same time, this is but one amongst a myriad of such ugly incidents occurring around the world where a single loathsome individual, or an abominable group, procures a cache of guns or an explosive laden vehicle, seek out a group of innocent, non-suspecting people to shed their blood in the name of whatever hateful venomous causes they are nourishing in their villainous bosoms – sparing not even children.
I have served the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) for a very long time. My heart is hardened by the sight of many a young man embracing death. I have seen young girls being widowed during their honeymoon. I know of children being orphaned before their birth. I have come to realize that death is not separate from life; they are just phases in the continuum of creation. However, offering one’s weekly prayers is not one of those circumstances where one expects a merciless massacre. Going to a place of worship is not one of those occupations where violent death should be a distinct possibility.
And yet, we live in a world where this has become a reality for so many.
I think we have a lot to learn from the bold and imaginative healing touch of the Prime Minister and people of New Zealand
The conduct of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been exemplary. It is a lesson in civic behaviour in the execution of political authority. Much has been written about her use of the ‘they are us’ phrase while referring to the victims of the shooting. Few national leaders have displayed this kind of clarity at a time of moral crisis. To emphasize the message of love, she wore Muslim dress to meet the families of the slain, arranged reading of the Quran in the parliament, had the parliamentarians stand in respect and greeted the house with ‘salaam’ in the Muslim fashion.
Such mature and courageous leadership is hard to find in the modern Muslim world. In Pakistan, we had scores of fatalities in the bombing of an Ahmadiyya site of worship but the then Prime Minister didn’t even approach the community to offer condolences and support. The use of ‘they are us’ would have lead religious groups to demand his resignation and they would have branded him as a non-Muslim. The response was equally pathetic in the case of Christians being targeted in Taxila, Peshawar and Lahore. I think we have a lot to learn from the bold and imaginative healing touch of the Prime Minister and people of New Zealand.
Haroon was bright and industrious. Soon after he landed in Christchurch in 2014, he started serving as a teaching assistant for economics and statistics at Lincoln University, a position that he served till 2016. Simultaneously, he became a lecturer at Linguis International, where he taught business from 2014 till April 2017. In May 2017, he joined Canterbury College as an academic supervisor. He was extremely happy about the completion of his PhD and was looking forward to receiving his degree and visiting Pakistan. His wife, a PhD in business administration, is a working mother of a 13-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.
Religious, racial and ethnic hatred has been a part of human behaviour since the dawn of history. As Arnold Toynbee noted, within every human group in the world there is a tendency that claims them to be a mutually incomparable version of a ‘chosen people’ with a divine right to supplant the others. No other belief has caused more bloodshed and grief in this world. In reality, we are all capable of love across the superficial divisions of colour of our skins and the place of our birth. All humans are born equal and are descendants of a common ancestry. This truth seems to be losing essence when pitched against hate.
Let’s hope that one day we learn to seek triumph of love over hate. Let’s hope that the world becomes a more secure and peaceful place for our future generations. Let’s hope that we have faith in hope.
Parvez Mahmood retired as a Group Captain from PAF and is now a software engineer. He lives in Islamabad and writes on historical and social issues. He can be reached at email@example.com