A tiny ray of hope in global darkness


A tiny ray of hope in global darkness


Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan



Lights are shimmering everywhere - on buildings, trees, houses. Children are receiving presents. It’s Christmas in Canada, the season to be merry and feast with family and friends. It’s above all a season of love.

But these days the news is dominated by senseless savagery. Hostage-taking by a deranged man in Australia has shown that violence can strike anywhere. Two months ago two disturbed youth killed two innocent Canadian armed forces officers. Now Canadians are horrified by the recent gunning down in Peshawar of innocent school children and their teachers.

Canadians of Pakistani origin were particularly upset that the cold-blooded murderers call themselves Muslim while violating the most basic teachings of Islam. The killers called it revenge for the killing of thousands of their men, women and children by drones and other modern weapons of murder. But why kill innocent children for the actions of others?

But, to put things in perspective, this was just one of the many horrible incidents taking place around the world these days. The world learned this time, however, that though some terrorists are Muslims, most victims of terrorism are also innocent Muslims. This is not about religion.

As I told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, such brutalities are global and cannot be pinned on one country or religion. To overcome such evil, we have to work together to uphold the rights of the entire human family and of all living beings.

Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, where I studied, labelled the last century as a century of massacres - the killing of more than 100 million innocent civilians in wars and genocides. This includes the dropping of atomic bombs on civilians on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These killings were done in two world wars. Only one Muslim country, Turkey, participated in the first world war. In the second, no independent Muslim country was involved. Only Christian and Buddhist countries were. Neither the League of Nations nor the United Nations, which was created after the Second World War, succeeded in saving the world from wars, massacres and savage brutality.

In 1947, an orgy of violence killed a million helpless, innocent people and displaced some 16 million in the subcontinent. These are people who had lived mostly in friendship for centuries despite the ongoing wars among rulers for land. The British had planted the seeds of divide and rule and they bloomed even as the white man was leaving.

In the Korean War of the 1950s, the United Nations lent its name and support to defend South Korea from a North Korean attack. Then came the Vietnam War, which started from a European power’s determination to keep its colony in subjugation, but became one to stop Vietnam from uniting under Communist rule.

Not to be outdone, Iraq attacked Iran in a war that I described in the Ottawa Citizen as the crime of the century. The senseless war devastated the two countries, killed thousands of people and produced nothing but destruction.

But it isn’t wars alone that cause death and destruction. The genocides in Cambodia (Kampuchea) and in Rwanda, the self-destruction of Somalia in clan rivalries, the wars in Latin America and in Africa, all showed that man has made progress in technology but regressed in humanitarian values and justice.

Africans were kidnapped and sold as slaves in the West, blacks were lynched by white mobs in America and brutally trampled on by the white minority in South Africa. The Roma people of Europe and Russia were victims of oppression and discrimination while Jews in Europe were massacred in a Holocaust and some Jewish refugees were turned away by the US, Canada and some European countries.

The peaceful Palestinians became the indirect victims of Nazi brutality. The United Nations created Israel to offer refuge to Jews. But 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and, later, the West Bank and Gaza became victims of the world’s longest military occupation and a gigantic land robbery.

In Australia and the Americas, the Aboriginal people lost their lands and those who survived the genocide became second-class citizens. Today, they are still struggling for basic rights, dignity, respect and equality.

So are women worldwide, even in Canada and the United States. In homes, schools, offices and public places they are assaulted and abused. All women are vulnerable and Aboriginal women in particular. Children are victimized too. Minorities are targeted, as well, in Central African Republic, Myanmar, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The savages come in many forms - Boko Haram, the so-called Islamic State and others.

What is common to these situations is man’s inhumanity to man and to other living creatures. But all of us were created by the same Creator who loves His creations. All of humanity is one family. It is only by respecting others that will we ensure that all of us will be respected too. Perhaps the murder of children in Peshawar will unite Pakistanis against the evils of terrorism and nudge the world toward respecting the rights of everyone, particularly the weak.


— Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.