LAST week, British MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered in her constituency. She was shot twice and stabbed several times.
According to reports, when brought to court and asked for his name, her murderer exclaimed, “Death to traitors. Freedom for Britain”.
I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about what his possible motives were. Investigations are ongoing.
For context, however, Cox was known for her pro-refugee stance and the murder happened less than two weeks before a bitterly fought referendum for whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union.
The campaign has been toxic. Considering the refugee crisis in Europe, it is no surprise that migration and crossing of borders have been a hot topic.
Just a few days ago, UKIP’s Nigel Farage – a strong proponent to leave – posed with a poster that looked similar to material from Nazi propaganda. On the other side, the “remain” camp has been accused of orchestrating a campaign dubbed “Project Fear”.
Tensions are high, vitriol is being spewed and an MP has just been murdered.
The weekend before, the Pulse club in Orlando, known to be an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) venue, was the scene for one of the worse mass murders in American history.
Forty-nine people died that night, and dozens more were injured in the homophobic attack, bringing out more outrage for the lack of gun-control laws in the US.
While many people the world over came together in solidarity to condemn the attack, others – like US Republican presumptive-nominee Donald Trump – chose to perpetuate Islamophobia instead.
These are just two examples of incidents of hate crimes that happen around the world on a daily basis.
From Australia to the Middle East, Russia to Paris, many people live in constant fear that they might one day fall victim to the manifestation of someone’s hate based on their ideologies, belief structures and lack of respect for diversity.
This is not a difficult phenomenon to understand – we discriminate against people who are different from us and who we don’t know about whether it is due to their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or more.
What is difficult to understand, however, is why we as human beings lack such humanity for one another. We all know that everyone is different – my siblings and I always talk about how different we are although born and raised by the same parents in the same household.
In a country like Malaysia, we also grow up knowing that there are people who are different from us in other ways.
Multiracial, multiculturalism and multi-religious are keywords drilled into us from a very young age. We also see each other on a daily basis.
We also know that within each of our categorisations of race, there is much diversity whether in history, heritage or culture. Just look at how many different kinds of laksa exists and the various dialects or accents in our respective languages!
Despite this, many people – from our leaders to the average layperson – seem increasingly comfortable in pitting people against one another by focusing on our differences.
This breeds ignorance and intolerance, which will eventually lead to hate. Heaven forbid, this hate manifests physically the way I have illustrated in the examples in Britain and the US above.
Of course, some people I’ve spoken to feel that I’m overstating things, and not factoring in the context of our society, which is generally peaceful and non-violent.
Unfortunately, history has shown otherwise. In Malaysia, we have already seen attacks on religious houses from different faiths in the past. We have watched a YouTube video of a young boy having to beg for forgiveness from a fellow classmate who was just “defending her rights”.
We have resorted to name-calling in our attempts to “other-ise”one another.
In the wake of brutal tragedies – especially those that involve the loss of lives – we always hear that clarion call for love to triumph over hate. Not many people will disagree with that call, but unless all of us do something meaningful to perpetuate that love, it remains a slogan.
Whether liberal or conservative, left or right wing, we all need to ask ourselves difficult questions about humanity and how are we contributing to this culture of hate.
We need to ask ourselves if we are ignorant and how much more do we have left to learn about other people, or if we truly respect diversity, or what do we lose from allowing people to be themselves or have their own opinions and views?
Most importantly, we need to acknowledge that each and every one of us is different and that is something to be celebrated instead of being used as an excuse to exclude the other.
Otherwise, more and more tragedies will happen and soon we’ll all have blood on our hands.