It is this hypocrisy that has caused the cracks in the walls of the make-believe edifice of civilization the West proudly showcases to the world at large. And through those cracks are showing up the gashing wounds of the remote past…
Long dormant social wounds are reopening everywhere.The Western (European and North American) societies that seemed to have given a decent burial to the dark forces of obscurantism, racism and communal intolerance through Enlightenment and Scientific revolution that lay behind the political revolutions in France and then across Europe may now be wondering if it was all a chimera. The post-colonial, newly emerging nations in Asia and Africa as well as in Latin America who had so far looked up to the West as their lodestar for guidance in building their social, educational, political, even moral institutions, are now thrown into a state of total confusion.
Dislodging of the Palestinians from their ancestral homeland, followed by their systematic persecution throughout the entire second half of the 20th century till today at the hands of the Israeli state is a glaring instance of the West’s double standards. Oddly though, it goes against their stand on the nature of a modern state, which they preach should be secular. But the political entity they created by establishing the state of Israel—a state based on Jewish religion and ethnicity, flies in the face of the political values they stand for. And the greater irony is that it is the same Israeli Jews, who suffered the horror of the Holocaust in which millions—some six million—Jews were exterminated by Hitler’s men under Nazi Germany during Second World War became the persecutor of the Palestinian people! The West, if they are ready to face facts, cannot deny that by thus compromising their professed ideals through creation of Israel, they also lost their moral authority in the eyes of the newly emerging nations. And is it not this historical injustice done against the Palestinian people immediately after the nightmare of World War II that sowed the seeds of modern-day terrorism worldwide with its no end of variants working to destabilise the existing world order?
Terrorism cannot be considered in isolation. In most cases, its purveyors draw their strength from a section of people who have a perception of being wronged by an establishment which failed them. The grand show of camaraderie and the vows of upholding the lofty ideals of democracy and the open society those leaders of the West make after each incident of terrorist attack of Middle Eastern or North African origin on their soil have most often a hollow ring to it. Consider the doublespeak : the US President Donald Trump unlike his reaction to other instances of mass killing by extremists limited himself to calling the carnage committed at the Las Vegas strip on October 1 as ‘an act of pure evil’ and not a ‘terror attack,’ nor the perpetrator, a white American, Stephen Paddock, was branded as a ‘terrorist’. But had the killer been someone with non-white skin colour, say, of Middle Eastern, or North African origin, or of any other country of Asia belonging to the Muslim community, the label ‘terrorist’, ‘Islamic radical terrorist’ would instantly be tagged to the person without a second thought. We may recall how he termed last year’s Orlando shooting by Omar Mateen as ‘Islamic radical terror.’ But a phrase pointing at Las Vegas killer’s faith was not used to brand the outrage he committed.
Neither did any announcement of sanction, say, on the right to own or purchase guns by the Americans, come immediately after the tragedy. But had the massacre been the work of someone belonging to Muslim faith, then all hell would have broken loose leading to renewed sanction on immigrants, visitors or refugees from parts of the world where such killer might have come from!
And the media? The entire Western media would have become obsessed with the issue of Islamist radicalism and terror, the threat it posed to the Western way of life, their culture, values and their civilization! Their populace would be in a fresh grip of Islamophobia and xenophobia.
But nothing like this happened after the massacre, the most vicious of its kind in recent times in America that Stephen Paddock inflicted on the people enjoying a concert at Las Vegas.
To president Trump, Stephen Paddock who massacred 58 people and injured some 489 in his indiscriminate shooting at a musical event was just a ‘very, very, sick individual,’ a ‘demented’ man!
It is this hypocrisy that has caused the cracks in the walls of the make-believe edifice of civilization the West proudly showcase to the world at large. And through those cracks are showing up the gashing wounds of the remote past in the shape of irrationalism and prejudices as evidenced by the rising trend of xenophobia, hate-culture, nativism and other signs of sickness in their society and politics.
The inauspicious fallout of it all is visible everywhere to see—in Bosnian genocidal civil war in early 1990s, in the fratricidal civil wars of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and now in the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma).
The persistent branding of modern terrorism with Muslims and their faith has left its pernicious influence everywhere across the globe. Now even the Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where Muslims are a miniscule minority, is in the grip of the hysteria of Islamophobia and has been frenziedly carrying out a systematic bloody campaign against its Muslim population in the northern Rakhine state. These hapless people, who identify themselves as Rohingyas, are fleeing their ancestral abode as the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist vigilantes are killing them like animals, burning down their villages one after another, subjecting their women to inhuman atrocities including gangrape, throwing their children into blazing fire and slaughtering their youths.
The hatred of the majority Buddhists including their present government with the Nobel Peace laureate, Aung San Suu kyi as the de facto head, against the Rohingya Muslims is so intense that even the unspeakable acts of barbarity unleashed against them could not prick the conscience of the West’s erstwhile icon for the cause of peace, democracy and human rights . In her recent address to the nation she dismissed all the reports of the ongoing genocide taking place in the northern Rakhine state —what the UN’s Human High Commissioner for Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, called ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’— as a “mix of untruths and victim blaming.” In the same breath, she pretended to be clueless about why the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims is happening from the Rakhine state! Worse still, just to pander to the prejudice of the Buddhist chauvinist section of the public and the military, she never uttered the word ‘Rohingya’ in her speech, a people her government denies citizenship.
Such is the mindset of a winner of Nobel Peace prize, once a darling of the West. But though she has shamelessly walked over the cause and values she was supposed to have held high to deserve the prestigious award, the Nobel Peace committee is not ready to revoke the prize. Why? Hear what the former Nobel Committee member, Gunnar Stalsett said: “A peace prize has never been revoked and the committee does not issue condemnations or censure laureates”, and “The principle we follow is the decision is not a declaration of a saint,” (The Telegraph, September 11, 2917).
This is another case of double-standard on the part of an exalted Western institution that champions human rights and peace!
So, Aung San Suu Kyi’s image as a symbol of peace and human rights will continue untarnished before the Nobel Peace Committee, while the rest of the world will know her as a coward, an accomplice of the crime against humanity being committed by the Myanmar authority against Rohingya Muslims!
The writer is a columnist