The Ideology of Intolerance

This is a cross post from Pulse Weekly

ArticleYAABy Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Intolerance of views other than a nation, a religion, a culture, an ethnic group may subscribe to is becoming wide spread and manifesting itself in the unkindest forms. The spillover of this intolerance can damage personalities and psyches of nations. Religious groups are intolerant of other groups within; gender discrimination is yet another form of intolerance as is ethnic intolerance.

According to an interesting dissection of the ‘Ideology of Intolerance’ (A term I’ve coined to explain the growing number of subscribers to the creed) Intolerance of Others takes three distinct steps: stereotyping, prejudice and both then lead to discrimination. The Urban Dictionary defines stereotyping as, “when you judge a group of people who are different from you based on your own and/or others opinions and/or encounters.

Guy 1: I met this hot chick from Hawaii 
Guy 2: All women from Hawaii are sluts, I met one yesterday
Guy 3: You are just stereotyping. How can you judge an entire group of people based on one person?”

Clark Kent Ervin writing for The International Herald Tribune on stereotyping writes, ‘the vast majority of Americans – and many Europeans – do have a stereotype in mind when we think of terrorists, and that stereotype is of someone of Arab descent.’ He shares, ‘Stereotypes become stereotypes for a reason, of course. Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al- Zahawiri, are Arabs. All 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Arabs. The late, unlamented Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda’s top man in Iraq, was an Arab. But even if it is to some extent understandable that we are more suspicious of those we take to be Arabs than we are of others, it is also illogical, politically incorrect and morally repugnant.’

Nevertheless, no matter how illogical, politically incorrect and morally repugnant stereotyping may be, it remains a fact that most of us subscribe to it to some degree or another- setting up mental barriers that stop us from knowing those ‘different from us’ better. Is this fear what keeps us entrenched in our comfort zones and separated from those who view issues differently? Stereotyping can create blocks that can be literally immovable.

Prejudice is the natural outcome of stereotyping. It is defined as, ‘Prejudice is a baseless and usually negative attitude toward members of a group. Common features of prejudice include negative feelings, stereotyped beliefs, and a tendency to discriminate against members of the group.’  Prejudice is a natural outcome of stereotyping and can be gender, ethnic, religious, nationality based to name just a few.

Once stereotyping and prejudice are clearly established, it leads to the crystallization of the unjustifiable behavior; in discrimination. María Elena Martínez in her book has tried to analyze how the concept of the purity of Spanish blood has been instrumental in being fundamental in solidifying the racial and patriotic ideologies in the bygone era of colonial Mexico. Her book published by Stanford University Press titled Genealogical Fictions Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico has is recommended reading for better understanding of the subject.

In an absorbing piece in The Daily Beast titled ‘Don’t Ignore the Roots of Discrimination’  it says, “Last year, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described Israel’s systematic violations, such as “segregation” and “[un]equal access to land and property.” as grave enough to necessitate a reminder of the “prohibition” of “apartheid.” This is the reality, and no amount of ‘co-existence’ industrial parks at home or rebranding abroad can mask it.’ (March 6, 2013)

Amnesty International on its official site states, ‘Discrimination is an assault on the very notion of human rights.  Discrimination is the systematic denial of certain peoples’ or groups’ full human rights because of who they are or what they believe. It is all too easy to deny a person’s human rights if you consider them as “less than human”. This is why international human rights law is grounded in the principle of non-discrimination. The drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated explicitly that they considered non-discrimination to be the basis of the Declaration.

Yet discrimination due to factors such as race, ethnicity, nationality, class, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or health status – or a combination of factors – persists in many forms in every country in the world.’

It continues to state. ‘Discrimination in law enforcement can mean that certain groups are viewed by the authorities as ”potential criminals” and so are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned.  It can also mean that they are more likely to suffer harsher treatment, possibly amounting to torture or other forms of ill-treatment, once in criminal justice system.’

The cascading effect of this cycle is hate speech.

An online site defines hate speech as‘speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.’

Hate speech is not just restricted to Pakistan its widespread and an international phenomenon. .. “Hate speech is a communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence. It is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women.” (Definition by Legal.com) In the world that we live in today, with geographical barriers down, a world fraught with wars, hatred and conflicts, can the world, and media in specific, afford to vent more hatred, more conflicts by ignoring the legitimate and valid limitation that must be taken into consideration while exercising the right to freedom of expression? Media plays a powerful role today, in terms of forming opinions and attitudes and the impact of media cannot be undermined. Above all, choice of words by media practitioners must be carefully weighed before delivering.

The comments by politicians, opinion leaders, media all are part of creating opinions and effecting those who follow. This in turn can have a cascading effect on the actions of the members of society. How a news is projected, what angle is given, the choice of words therein, can and does, create hatred. Since 9/11 , attitudes worldwide in non -Muslim countries towards Islam are more negative than positive. Though, Islam explicitly prohibits taking the life of another human being, sometimes perceptions become more real than the reality itself. According to a 201o, Time magazine poll, 28 percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and nearly one-third think they should be barred from running for president. (TIME POLL: ARTICLE TITLED:” Majority Oppose Mosque, Many Distrust Muslims” by Alex Altmani published Thursday19th August 2010)

 

Media can play a huge part in playing a positive role in correcting these perceptions and developing harmony between different religious groups inter countries and within a country. Unfortunately, media too, on many occasions, is hostage to vested interests . When hatred is fanned by media, of which social media has come up as a powerful means of communication, hate speech translates itself into actions that horrify.

Irresponsible use of freedom of expression is an abuse of the right. Those exposed to hate speech are all kinds of people, educated, uneducated, frustrated, maybe having faced injustices. It is the frame of mind; it is that one moment that may accept the full impact of hate speech in any form and commit an act, later repented, but cannot be undone.

Let us look at Pakistan and in particular the role of electronic media. Can the electronic media aggravate or mitigate hatred towards groups within? Are there any laws that may be used to curtail any aggravation?

According to the exceptions listed within Article 19 Constitution of Pakistan 1973, creating public order disruption is a violation of freedom of speech. Disturbing the public peace is punishable under Section 153-A Pakistan Penal Code. “The term public order has reference to the maintenance of conditions where under the orderly functioning of the government can be carried on. It is the duty of the government to ensure that the lives, properties, and liberties of the citizens are not endangered. The term public order is wider than the term public safety and implies absence of internal order, rebellion, interference to the supply and distribution of essential commodities or services.”( Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan published by PLD Publishers, 1996, by Justice Muhammad Munir, Formerly Chief Justice of Pakistan, Pg 359) Likewise PEMRA Ordinance (Amendment) states, “Sec 2(l) states, “not broadcast any programme inciting violence or hatred, or any action prejudicial to maintenance of law and order.” Sub clause (a) of Section 1 of Code of Conduct for Media; TV Broadcasters/Cable Operators states, “) Passes derogatory remarks about any religion or sect or community or uses visuals or words contemptuous of religious sects and ethnic groups or which promotes communal and sectarian attitudes or disharmony.”  Whereas clause C of same section states, “(c) contains an abusive comment that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race or caste, national, ethnic or linguistic origin, color or religion or sect, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.”

If we look at the Anti Terrorism Act 1997, clause 11 A sub clause (e ) says, “ Patronize and  assists in the  incitement of  hatred and contempt on religious, sectarian or ethnic lines that stir up disorder.” Sub clause (f) states, “  Fails to expel from its ranks or ostracize those who commit acts of  terrorism and present them as heroic persons.”

Public order seeks to minimize crimes like arson, murders, rape, targeted violence, striking fear in the hearts of people in their free movement. Lack of public order can be strikingly destabilizing for economies creating fear, hatred between coexistence of ethnic groups and sub-groups and destroy the base of a peaceful society. Activities that are either politically motivated or criminally motivated, create a cascading effect of negativity, like kidnappings, misuse of power, illegal detentions, so on and so forth. In situations of breakdown of public order, people may be caught up in a rush, be trampled underfoot and in cases of shootouts innocent bystanders may lose their lives.

Giving media coverage endlessly to those seeking the exposure, media inadvertently may play in the hands of such negative elements.  Giving coverage to events of public disorder endlessly create hatred within society at different levels.

We need to take a pause and take stock.

The writer is  a political analyst and Author of, “A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.” She may be reached at yasmeenali62@gmail.com and  tweets at: @yasmeen_9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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