Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
When Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead in India in 1948, I felt immense pain at the killing of a noble leader. Then I felt relieved that the killer was a Hindu. If the culprit had been a deranged Muslim, angry mobs would have slaughtered thousands of innocent Muslims, as they murdered helpless Sikhs years later when a Sikh bodyguard killed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Later, I moved to Pakistan, studied in the Philippines and the US and then made Canada my home. When I learned of the savage murder of 26 people in the United States this December, including 20 children, I was shocked.
I also felt immense relief that the killer was not a Muslim. If he had been there would have been hysterical accusations that Islam is a violent religion, Muslims yearn to kill non-Muslims, Muslims are jealous of the US, they hate American prosperity and freedom and they pine to destroy America.
But when the killers are Americans, it is not alleged that Christianity is a violent religion, that Christians revel in killing non-Christians and that they have no respect for the lives, freedom, sovereignty, culture, dignity and well-being of innocent people. It is not even mentioned that the murderers were Christian.
Yet such rampages are not rare. The United States was born in violence and exploitation. Kidnapped Africans were enslaved to serve their white masters and do their menial tasks. Land was seized from the native Aboriginals and neighboring countries. US multinational corporations set up shop, with the country’s military backing. So the US was born, grew and prospered.
The National Rifle Association is among the toughest lobbies that distort the American political system. Americans own guns and have graduated to semi-automatic weapons. The New York Times reported that most Americans oppose a ban on the ownership of automatic weapons. The Gallup Poll found that half of Americans are satisfied with the status quo and that 69 percent had fired guns.
But guns aren’t the only culprit. US culture glamorizes violence. Pick up comic books, or children’s games, and you’ll see killings glorified. Watch TV programs and DVDs, read popular magazines and books, play video games and you will see violence, torture and the dehumanization of human beings. Formerly it was the “Red Indians” you could kill with satisfaction. Now neighbors, fellow office workers, teachers or even children are fair game.
Women top the list of victims of this violent-prone culture. While Americans view polygamy as repugnant and exploitative of women, in America women are degraded and pornography flourishes.
Teenage pregnancies are common. From early years the pressure is on girls to go out with boys and cultivate their approval at whatever price in order to be considered normal. Peer pressure is overwhelming to swim with the tide. Giving in to men’s demands is seen as the liberation of women from inhibitions.
Not all Americans are like this, of course. But technology, media and a changing lifestyle have reduced respect for women, glorified violence, broken down traditional restraints and turned many youth into zombies who show no respect for life or for the dignity of others. Intense competition in a totally work-driven society has also shattered the family system, increased mental illness and led those unable to cope to seek refuge in alcohol or drugs or in killing themselves or others.
So one hears of senseless killings. This year a patron killed 12 people in a Colorado movie house showing The Dark Knight Rises. An army veteran murdered five men and a woman and then killed himself outside a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Last year, a gunman killed six people and wounded 13, including then-US Representative Gabrielle Giffords. And so it goes.
Of course people living in glass houses should not throw stones at others. Suicide bombings and random killings of innocent people, or of minorities, take place frequently in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. Some Muslim countries have failed to follow the teachings of Islam and must reform themselves to return to civilized behavior.
But it isn’t only some deranged Americans who kill innocent people. Using force against those not willing to do its bidding has long been US practice. Currently US drones, cluster bombs and cruise missiles have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine (US supplied the weapons, Israel used them) and other places and the murders continue.
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 killed 4,400 American soldiers and more than 650,000 Iraqis, including civilians. Now Iranians are being squeezed. No tears are being shed in the US for them – they are not Americans.
– Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, government official and refugee judge. He has received the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and the Queen’s Diamond and Golden Jubilee awards