March 15, 2019 has been described as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Two consecutive terrorist attacks occurred at two mosques in Christchurch during the Muslim Friday prayer on that day. The attacked claimed 50 innocent souls and injured at least 50 more. New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has called this assault an act of terrorism.
28 year-old Australian male, a white-supremacist subscribing to an ideology of hate was responsible for this horrific acts of brutality. Describing the attack as White Genocide in his 47-page manifesto, the gunman’s action has signaled a very crucial thing i.e. the culture of hatred has now transformed into a violent ideology.
This is one of the distinctive challenges of the period we live in today – the significant presence of violence in our societies. These acts of violence stem from a doctrine of hatred and intolerance that fracture societies into constant turbulence and upheaval.
For politico-religious groups and individuals, this ideology of hatred is based on an extreme interpretation of religion that divides the world into the realm of peace and the realm of war. For far right extremist groups, their hatred is based on its belief in the legitimacy of the rule of a supposed superior minority over the inferior masses.
Essentially, terrorists such as this white supremacist fail to understand the value of humanity, sanctity of life and peaceful co-existence, leading them to believe that, at the core, diversity and differences between human beings must be driven by enmity and hostility.
Consequently, it solicits revulsion of anyone or anything that they perceive as “the other” or “the enemy”. The perception is craftily tweaked to advocate and legitimise unrelenting war and aggression and to kill, all of which stems from the overwhelming and uncontrolled feelings of hatred.
The Hate Psychology
Hate is often described as an emotion of intense enmity and hostility, generally attributed to a desire to avoid, restrict, remove, or destroy the hated object. It is also used to describe feelings of prejudice, bigotry and condemnation against a person or group of people. It is among the most common emotions that human beings experience.
Hatred is a learned emotion; humans are not born with the inherent capacity to hate. Feelings of hatred, prejudice and bigotry are generated for those deemed to be different from us in some way, whether in racial, religious, economic or cultural terms.
When hatred becomes a feeling that is so unbridled and fierce, it elicits a strong, uncontrollable desire to physically harm that group of people because of those perceived differences.
One major question that comes to mind is why people feel such hatred that they would either advocate the use of violence or engage in random violence against others.
According to Erich Fromm, a German-born social psychologist, there are two types of hate. The first is ‘rational hate’, expressed in reaction to a threat to one’s freedom, life or ideas. It has a biological self-protecting function and is triggered in reaction to a threat but dissipates when the threat is removed. It is not against life but for life. This type of hate is manifested in the cry of a hungry baby.
The second type is ‘irrational hate’. It is a character trait developed in some people. It is marked by a readiness to be hostile to others. This is a passion to cripple life, a strong impulse to cruelty or a pathological aggressiveness.
People with this kind of hate seek a target to attack. They do not wait for an incident to occur, they create it. Such people are found among the leaders of racist mobs and organisations, and sometimes among the ideological ‘theorists’ of hate movements. Based on these two types of hatred, we can understand that both types exist in extremist ideology.
Terrorism and Hatred
Terrorism is a crime committed out of hatred. Also, the terrorist acts we are witnessing today are often the product of a longstanding and often inter-generational culture of hate and extremism. Terrorists are human beings whose hearts and minds have been moulded into blind hatred, violence and gross misperception of the realities today.
This in turn is the by-product of a culture of prohibitions. For religious extremists, their outlook is shaped by religious messages that are anchored in fears of plots against them and by publications which spread hatred and conspiracy theories. Educational messages also seek to alienate youths from the ‘threats’ of the modern era and the ‘evil other’.
In an article titled How To Make Our Young People Love Life in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, Dr Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, former dean of the Syariah and Law Faculty at Qatar University, said: ‘Terrorism is the fruit of hatred – hatred of life, hatred of civilisation and the modern era, hatred of society and state, hatred of living people.
‘The young people who have become tools of murder and human bombs are the sons of the culture of hatred, and the outcome of a fanatical culture and extremist ideology that sees life, its pleasures and its beauty as unimportant. Ultimately the political, economic, social and religious motives that push the young people to blow themselves up lie in a single main cause – and that is the culture of hatred.’
Promote Love and Not Hate
As one of the many evil attributes of the heart, human beings must realise that hatred should be eliminated to secure a world filled with peace and love. Promoting divisiveness and hatred based on differences of religion, race and colour is absolutely not in variant with human nature and teachings of all religions. Thus, hate is a man-made crime and should not be blamed on any religion. Blame should be assigned only to those individuals who prescribe hate, not to the religion or the followers of the religion.
The shooting incident in New Zealand has taught the world a very important lesson – the value of love, compassion, forgiveness and respect for all. These are important to build the peace culture and ensure a world void of hate and violence. In the troubled world that we face today, there is an urgent need to promote the virtues of love and tolerance and eliminate hatred, especially among the young. Only by maintaining these high moral and values, we can bring peace and stability in the world and win the battle against terrorism and violence.
*Dr Mohamed Bin Ali is Assistant Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is also the Vice-Chairman of the Singapore’s Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG).