The persistence of racist hatred and violence against minorities

Fazal Masood Malik and Farhan Khokhar, Canada

Images of rampaging mobs demolishing churches and homes belonging to Pakistan’s dwindling Christian minority in Jaranwala serve as a grotesque reminder that racist hatred persists as a licence for violent cruelty. Despite religious teachings across faiths emphasising the dignity of every life, enshrined in the Holy Quran as “Indeed, We have honoured the children of Adam, and carried them by land and sea, and given them of good things and exalted them far above many of those whom We have created.” (Surah Bani Isra’il, Ch.17: V.71), humanity has repeatedly failed this test by allowing prejudice to dehumanise the “other.” 

The cycle is an all too familiar one. In more recent memory, it started with pogroms against Europe’s Jews and the lynchings of African Americans that continued long after slavery’s abolition. (

As Jewish writers of the era observed, both forms of racist violence sprang from the same barbaric impulse — to brutalise and kill those perceived as insufficiently human. When such depravity was condoned, if not encouraged, it foreshadowed even worse brutality on the horizon.

The 1994 Rwandan genocide offered one of history’s most disturbing examples of racist hatred’s bottomless potential for savagery. The Hutu Power regime’s hate propaganda denounced the Tutsi minority as “cockroaches.” When the killing began, global indifference meant there was nobody to stop the slaughter of over 800,000 innocents. The fact that more recent cases have failed to prompt international intervention is an indictment of the world’s continuing failure to recognise humanity’s shared identity and defend its most vulnerable.

Unfortunately, the lessons from these historical atrocities have not been adequately learned as minorities across South Asia face a rising tide of hate crimes and violence legitimised in the name of religious or ethnic nationalism. In Pakistan, false allegations of blasphemy serve as a pretext for murder, assault and vandalism aimed at minorities, from Christians to Hindus to Muslims from the Shia and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. (“A timeline of attacks on religious minorities over the last 12 months”,; “Pakistan’s Ahmadis living in fear as graves, religious sites attacked”,

In India, Muslim victims are lynched as “cow eaters” and “beef smugglers” in the service of a warped Hindu nationalist ideology. (“What is behind India’s epidemic of ‘mob lynching’?”,

Where criminal mobs once operated in the shadows, today’s perpetrators act in open defiance of the rule of law and human rights. This speaks to a deeper willingness among society’s mainstream to dismiss racist brutality through silence or vague, uncertain commitment. In Pakistan, the persecution of minorities tends to elicit little outcry. In India, the ruling Hindu nationalist politicians (BJP) condemn hate crimes against Muslims in carefully couched terms, if they do so at all.

This toxic mix of state apathy and societal compliance serves as the oxygen, allowing the fire of racism to spread.  In India, for example, ruling politicians have strengthened violent cow-protection vigilantes who consider their persecution of Muslims to be a form of patriotism. (“What is behind India’s epidemic of ‘mob lynching’?”, The pattern is hatefully familiar – a vilified minority is scapegoated, their oppression rebranded as virtuous, and indifferent bystanders spur on the violence through their passive complicity.

When hatred is allowed to flourish through the spread of dehumanising propaganda, its roots sink deep and can embody unspeakable evil. Those who ignore this transmission of hate,  pave the way for future atrocities as grave as the ones that already blight human history. If there are any lessons to be drawn from the racist violence of ages past, they are that early warning signs must be heeded and robust action taken to denounce and uproot hate-fueled ideologies that corrupt society.

A closer look at these inhuman incidents reveals that religion itself is not the root cause of such barbarism. Rather, political and economic factors are often the driving forces. The rise of Hindu nationalism in India, promoted by groups like the Rashtriya Sawak Sang (RSS) (, has created an atmosphere of hatred and suspicion against Muslims that enables mob attacks. (“What is behind India’s epidemic of ‘mob lynching’?”, In Pakistan, blasphemy laws are increasingly used as a political tool to persecute religious minorities while the state remains complicit. (“A timeline of attacks on religious minorities over the last 12 months”,

Economic rivalries and property disputes can also be hidden factors behind blasphemy accusations that incite violence. (Ibid.) The language of “barbarism” has long served as a way to universally condemn such acts without explicitly acknowledging deeper issues of racism and blaming vulnerable groups.

Continued flaming by clergy at madrassas in Pakistan is an all-present danger for minorities. The recent killing of two Ahmadis in Mandi Bahauddin District of Punjab (“Gunmen kill 2 members of Pakistan’s Ahmadi minority”, reflects how Mullah brainwashes youth to commit heinous crimes.

Nobody can credibly claim ignorance of the propaganda vilifying minorities across India and Pakistan today. We also cannot ignore where society goes when people do nothing and allow the abusers to become bolder – down the same terrible path towards deadly mob violence, lynchings, and possibly even genocide.

Breaking the cycle requires persistent condemnation of racist violence from every credible global voice, combined efforts to protect vulnerable communities and a firm stance against the forces of hatred seeking to unravel our common humanity.  The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa has reminded us that Allah has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided. An Arab has no preference over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one. 

The world has failed this test too many times before, allowing hatred to consume the most vulnerable. From China to South Asia, Palestine to North America, the latest rounds of cruelty targeting minorities demand a response that proves we have finally learned from history’s darkest chapters. Silence is complicity; we must stand united against all forms of racist violence and persecution, actively defending the rights and dignity of every human being.

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