Without knowing that it seeks to establish equality, some think that feminism is an aggressive ideology. That it seeks to lay siege to the rights of “men”. Without knowing that Islam doesn't mean being a Bin Laden, some think that Islam is imbued with terrorism. That it seeks to establish a Caliphate by violent means. An Islamophobic person will hate Muslims with every fibre of his being. An anti-feminist will do the same with feminists. Of course, those who think like that are blinded by the shadow of “generalisation”. And it is due to the very concept of generalisation that we have seen conflicts tearing through countries and time, swallowing lives and corroding the foundation of peaceful co-existence.
When the Myanmar security forces cracked down on the Rohingya people, they didn't view them as normal people with normal lives. Rather, they were seen as terrorists. Despite having nothing to do with terrorism (in this case, blowing up police outposts), the security forces blamed them for something not they, but a few insurgents had done. As for the consequences, we now have sprawling refugee camps in areas that had once been evergreen forests with rugged hills. Those camps are packed with tragic stories of violence. All because of anger against the “wrong representatives”—the insurgents.
The 9/11 attacks gave way for hate crimes to rise. The consolidation of hatred has made many Americans see all “Muslims” in a bad light despite their innocence. In 2017, hate crimes against Muslims rose to 15 percent in the United States, according to The New York Times. A report in the same year by Pew Research Center shows that assaults against Muslims have surpassed the level of 2001.
Let us recall the case of Yusor, Deah, and Razan, who had been brutally killed by their neighbour in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, execution-style. Let us recall the case of Nabra Hassanen, who had been raped and killed during Ramadan by a man in Virginia. Let us recall the case of a man ready to shoot up a mosque in Canada, claiming five innocent lives.
The reasons? The faith of the victims and the attackers' blind hatred towards it.
In the wake of the recent Kashmir attack which left 40 Indian paramilitary police dead, my newsfeed was filled with dehumanising sentiments against Pakistan as a whole (the credit goes to some Indian “meme pages”). Bear in mind that the attack was carried out by a Pakistan-based terrorist organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammed. It was not carried out by the innocent Kashmiri people who are now facing people's wrath. As for propagating hateful sentiments, the people commenting under the memes are understandably driven by rage, and of course, the shadow of generalisation. They, much like the security forces of Myanmar, the Islamophobia-driven people in the US, and all those bashing feminism, are expressing their rage towards an entire community.
They fail to understand that the community and its innocent people should not be blamed for something a “wrong representative” has done. According to an article in Scroll.In, in Dehradun, Kashmiri students are being chased by mobs. They are having to go into hiding, leaving their universities behind. The article states how a student has seen his friends and teachers join protests against the Kashmiri people, which made him feel isolated. Shopkeepers are refusing to sell anything to Kashmiri students. Landlords are quietly asking them to look for somewhere else to stay, as their “Kashmiri” presence may bring trouble to the landlords.
The Kashmiris are now facing the consequences of generalisation. This post-Kashmir-attack atmosphere echoes the atmosphere of the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat massacre. In the massacre, around 2,000 (or more) innocent lives were lost. Lives that had nothing to do with the burning of a train in Godhra (the same year) which killed 59 Hindu pilgrims. Simply belonging to the same faith as the alleged killers of the pilgrims made the innocent culpable and targets of Hindu extremists. The enraged mobs didn't once think that those killers had been the wrong representatives and that those killers' actions had nothing to do with those innocent people. Yet, they raped many women, set properties ablaze, initiated a killing spree, and destroyed any possibility of peaceful co-existence. One can only hope that history doesn't repeat itself and that the aftermath of the Kashmir attack isn't the same as that of the Gujarat massacre.
The act of generalisation has deadly consequences. It has cost millions of lives throughout history. More Yusors, Deahs, and Razans, more Kashmiri students in limbo, and more innocent people will continue to get caught up in the crosshairs of hatred and generalisation unless we stop holding the many responsible for the acts of a few.
Shah Tazrian Ashrafi is a contributor to SHOUT, The Daily Star.