Hate Speech: A Precursor for Genocide

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It is not an exaggeration to say that hate speech has become an organised industry in India. Technology platforms like Facebook offer cover as the hate agenda blossoms.

DR SAMINA SALIM | Clarion India

RADICALISATION, discrimination and persecution are three words that are often used by historians when studying genocide. There is enough consensus among historians to suggest that most pogroms were triggered by hate speech. Whether the holocaust in Nazi Germany, the extermination of Tutsis in Rwanda, or the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, all started with hate speech.

In the last seven years, the precursors of genocide i.e radicalisation, discrimination and persecution are on a steep rise in world’s largest democracy, India. Just as the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany were not the sole result of Hitler, but a culmination of the compliance, allegiance and complacency of the public, so is the situation in India where the euphoria of its dangerous leadership is leading this once great nation on a genocidal path.

It is not an exaggeration to say that hate speech has become an organised industry in India. Technology platforms like Facebook offer cover as the hate agenda blossoms. Hate is cheap, accessible, easy to spread, delivers quick results, thus the hate industry is flourishing. Unfortunately, we learn nothing from history, despite stark reminders that hate and arrogance are self-annihilating traits which have brought down mighty empires to their  knees.

Sadly, a country which once took pride in the Gandhian principle of non-violence has fallen into the pit of hatred. Crimes and violence against Muslims including lynching, pogroms, persecution, fake scandals, frivolous charges, and gross misinformation are no accidents. These are deliberate and organised events. The lack of condemnation of these heinous acts by the leadership is appalling, the complicity of the state machinery and the silence of the majority is suffocating.

Those that speak are condemned and canceled- academics, artists, activists, journalists- no one is spared. The most recent target was the comedian Vir Das who faces litigations from the Indian leadership for telling the truth. While creative artists like Vir Das are condemned and canceled, those that follow the hate rhetoric are lauded with prestigious state honors. Even the Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan became a victim of this bullying.

The clarity of the message is striking. Look what we can do to the most famous man of India!  The vigilantes seem ready to engage in worst forms of atrocities, from lynching Muslim men, to cutting their beard, to vandalizing mosques, disrupting prayers, burning and looting Muslim property, not to mention the assault on dignity and honor.

Every new lynching and every new pogrom emboldens the perpetrators, and inspires them for more carnage. The leadership remains muted, media stays complicit, and the hate agenda continues to prosper. Muslim history, Muslim culture, Muslim cuisine, Muslim art- everything is at risk. The historical distortion canceling Muslim contributions especially are ludicrous. Clearly, with each passing day, India is plunging more deeply into the array of violence and persecution, exhibiting a major rise in discrimination promoted by the very same people who are supposed to prevent it. Genocidal phrases against Muslims such as “termites”, “virus”, “invaders”, “killers” and other inflammatory verbiage such as “love jihad”, “corona jihad” are all too frequently used as tag lines and speech points by the current leadership.

Hatred and Islamophobia spread in one part of the world affect us all, no matter where we live. The warning signs are up. The online language and the ground reality is genocidal. The evidence is before us. The time to act is now. The world cannot afford to have an unstable nuclear power on a dangerous path towards a Muslim genocide.

It is time for the international community especially the United States, to speak up against the genocidal environment that is building at an alarmingly swift pace in India. There are many historical precedents before us which remind us of the power that lies within the international community. The example of South Africa is before us, it took activism from both inside and outside South Africa, as well as international economic pressure, which ended the discriminative regime which allowed the country’s white minority to brutally subjugate its black majority.

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Samina Salim, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Houston College of Pharmacy. She was born in Lucknow and raised in Aligarh and moved to the United States in 1999. The views expressed here are author’s own and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.

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