Racially motivated hate speech should be taken seriously. Any statement that is made by anyone in the society that intends to insult, degrade, intimidate, create anger or incite violence against someone based on religion, ethnicity, race, gender, origin of country or regional identity or any other forms is dangerous and harmful should be a matter of grave concern. Anti-religious prejudice, malicious intent of dehumanising others is not only illegal but can create huge social unrest and even violence. Such act should be avoided by anyone and as such should be condemned by the society without any reservations or personal interest. This is not only insult to the victim, individual, group, or the community but to the entire society and humanity.
This has happened recently in the Bangladeshi Community in the UK. Channel S TV presenter and founder of the same channel, Mahee Ferdous Jalil made such inflammatory comments on the programme “COVID-19” that was live between 12 noon and 2.00 pm on channel on the 3rd May 2020. The derogatory and highly offensive remarks that were made have created a huge outcry among Hindu communities and others in the UK. Immediately, it went viral in various social media channels and people have expressed their condemnation. Local political and community leaders were informed. Multiple petitions have been launched and a serious community movement against this hate crime has been galvanised. A number of official statements were issued by the local Mayor and the Member of Parliament, with both John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets and Rushanara Ali have issued powerful condemnations of the racist comments made about Hindus, stating that the remarks were disgraceful and derogatory. Mr Biggs demands an unconditional apology and further asserts that such “disrespect and religious prejudice” has no place in community. Tower Hamlets has the highest Bangladeshi population in the UK and become the largest ethnic group with over 81,000 (according to last census) making up 32% of the population.
What Mr Jalil said? (The programme was aired in Bengali; the key message is translated in English below).
“Muslims who came to the UK from Bangladesh have inherited the low, impure and heinous blood of Hindus causing problems in the community. Due to the inherited blood of Hindus, Muslim shopkeepers cheat their customers—-“.
We are living in a free society in which freedom of expression is well protected and respected. The capacity of everyone to express their individual views are always respected and should not be threatened. Article 10 9Equality and Human Rights commission in the UK) focuses on the freedom of expression that protects individual right to hold their personal opinion and express them freely without fear or any interference from government or regulatory bodies. However, if personal views encourage religious or racial hatred or if it is dehumanising or derogatory, in which case the authorities can restrict that freedom of expression and such comments or views can be viewed as unlawful. Free debate, good actions, convincing arguments are important to counter hatred. Civil society, society at large and Governments should condemn hatred, or that which might fosters hatred and set the right examples by bringing those behind such conduct to justice. There is certainly no room in this world for odious and mendacious comments that have at their heart prejudices or twisted notions of those who may be different or hold different beliefs.
Mr Jalil finally apologised. Channel S also issued an official statement of unreserved apology on the 9th May and asking for forgiveness for the comment’s TV presenter made that may have caused distress. There was no “may” about it, the comments were deeply offensive and have hurt and alarmed a lot of people.
Is apology enough to heal the community? Was the apology done in most effective and sincere way?
It is not good enough just to convey apology or say sorry. As sometimes some apologies are insincere; and are often driven by ulterior motives such as fear of public censure or loss of business. It is logical that people will not forgive someone until they receive an apology and that should be unreserved and with remorse. Inability to convey apology correctly when it is legitimate indicates the dysfunctional life of an individual. An appropriate apology is paramount to heal the emotional and physical wellbeing of the victim. The right apology has the great power to transform both the individual who made the intentional or unintentional comments that hurt, degraded, or angered others. However, such apology should come with sincerity and remorse. Some are quite legitimately wondering whether Mr Jalil’s apology was said with true contrition. An apology like gratitude, appreciation or kindness has profound impact on an individual and society and can transform the world if it is done at the right ways, at the right time and right place. An effective apology validate that the person realised that a wrong act has been committed for which he/she has showing his/her regret or remorse and the person is committed not to do the same wrongful act in future and offer for repairs. Realisation, remorse, restoration, and request for forgiveness are some of the key elements of an unreserved apology and seeking for forgiveness.
It is sad to observer that community is not always working unitedly. People have different agendas and individual interest. Therefore, many such crimes never get the right justice and the punishment and hence, as a society we do not get the best outcome. I am sure over time this also will be deemed yesterday’s news and people will forget about this. Community become fragmented and divided, and sadly at times put profit over principle. Regrettably, those who want to ensure matters are properly resolved often see matters superseded by others pursuing their own interests. Sadly, as a consequence society is the loser.
Why society cannot be united for a common goal?
It reminds me the next quote: “What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses soul? (Mark 8.36)
This quote helped us to revisit the world social order and humans’ attitude. I am compelled to recall a salient truth in Gandhi’s observation “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed”. We are living in a society of intoxication that is based on estimation, quantification of humans. Maximisation of wealth is becoming the theory of normality, an accepted mantra. This has become the norm of the society. In 1973 E. F Schumacher published his one of the most influential books on earth titled “Small is beautiful… “. He realised that if the current form of economic, technological, and scientific specialisation is not replaced by a simple form of economic system then the world will face a boundless and endless misery. Now we see the outcome of his prediction.
Society is too much greedy. We all are running after profit and wealth maximisation. To do this, crime, dishonesty, bribery, multiple dishonest and unethical relationships, falsification, fabrication, unethical acts all are acceptable norms. We do not want to ask, we all are here to enjoy, increase our pleasure, increase status and attention from others. This is the degradation of human values and morality. The loss of soul is the loss of peace and happiness. If we lose it, we accept misery what is happening now in our society. If we neglect our soul than loss is inevitable.
A wrong is a wrong
If there is one lesson that we must all learn from this most unhappy of episodes is that we cannot be sectarian about grievous wrongs and injustices. A wrong is a wrong regardless of who it comes from. If we choose to stay silent about it there is always the danger that we give the impression of our tacit approval. We need to speak out, if necessary, to censure members of our own community, for like a child, if we never tell them when they have done wrong how will they ever learn. It is essential that we use temperate language and be measured in our approach. A person can express their hurt, displeasure or indeed anger, without having recourse to threats and abuse. Each of us must strive to behave with dignity and mutual respect. Slanderous, libellous, or highly offensive comments warrant prompt and decisive action. We all need to work assiduously for a kinder and more respectful world.
Dr P R Datta FCIM, FCMI
11th May 2020