Is there a new wave of extremism?

It seems that rumors and hate mongering is enough to get someone killed in Pakistan

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Q: How did you kill your professor?

A: With a knife.

Q: What did your professor do?

A: He spoke against Islam

Q: Do you know he just died?

A: That’s wonderful.

The response of Khateeb Hussain sends chills up the spine. In a video shot immediately after his arrest, the 5th semester student of Egerton College Bahawalpur appears eerily calm, responding as if someone was asking him how his day went. With zero remorse, zero regret, zero emotion.

The term ‘stone cold killer’ has rarely found a better example.

One might look at this as an isolated incident. But this isn’t the first time.

Last January in Islamia College Shabqadr, a student was criticised by his principal for not attending classes for three days because he was attending a TLP sit-in.

The student saw the rebuke as blasphemy, and promptly shot the principal, killing him.

Faheem gunned down his college principal in Shabqadar KP for perceived blasphemy -Photo Courtesy: Pakistan Today

Once again, zero remorse, zero regrets.

Is it another one-off? Like that of another university student, who was lynched and beaten to death on the basis of rumor mongering that he committed blasphemy?

Or a sitting Federal Minister, who was fired at because his government supported taking action against those who killed in the name of religion?

Or a Governor whose death was the result of him supporting someone who was wrongly accused of blasphemy?

How many more one-offs will we have? Will we start to ever see a pattern?

There are four common threads in all of these ‘one-offs’. The first is the incredibly thin layer of so-called evidence. It seems that rumors and hate mongering is enough to get someone killed. The hatred is so much that a simple call to action is enough, without any need for inquiry. The irony is that those asking for evidence are also labelled as traitors and enemies, and can also become targets. Khateeb’s case is a classic point. When asked why he committed his actions, he replied that he said anti-Islam things, but provided no evidence. The other students at the college denied any blasphemy was committed by the teacher. Yet the impression that he did was sufficient to end his life.

The second common thread is the lack of empathy on these actions. All the assailants said, loud and proud, that they were the ones who committed these heinous acts, with no remorse or regrets. It almost gives the impression that the people killed were no different than insects. The demonization has been so toxic, that they never bothered to realise that these were human beings.

The third common thread is that this is no longer organized, planned, orchestrated violence. It is highly individualized, and deeply personalized. It’s a form of privatized terrorism, where any individual feels that they are sanctioned to kill and maim in the name of religion. This is much worse than what we perceive as terrorism. This cannot be predicted, nor can it be contained. There are no leaders to negotiate with, no military operations that can be conducted. It is the hatred within.

The fourth common thread, is that in all these cases, various groups, for their own vested interest, have not only sanctioned such violence, but actively advocated the targeting of these individuals. They have not just motivated such violence, but also justified it, ensuring that such action need not be just carried out by an organised group, but can be carried out by ‘inspired’ lone gunmen. For those refuting this, please draw your attention to Khateeb’s Facebook page. Or the rally that Faheem skipped college for. Or the parties that supported Mashal’s lynching. Or those actively advocating the killings of state officials. This is no longer hateful rhetoric that preaches to the converted. This is a poison that is flowing through the veins of our new generation, fueled by new media that has made communication so efficient, and no toxic.

This is a kind of violence that cannot be stopped through security measures. This can only be stopped through altering mindsets, destroying the destructive influencers who exploit such impressionable minds and encourage such violence.

Otherwise Khateeb Hussain won’t be the last. He may be a sign of much worse to come.


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