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Faisal Hanif Column

Originally from Nelson, Faisal Hanif works as a freelance journalist. He recently graduated in the MA Newspaper Journalism programme at City University, London and has a Masters qualification in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies. Previously, he received a BA (hons) in History at the University of Leicester, and has worked as an associate researcher for Datamonitor in Manchester. We are delighted that Faisal will be writing a regular column exclusively for Inspiring Grace. The views expressed belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Inspiring Grace.

Previous Articles - September 2014 - A little more contemplation is needed

November 2014

George Santayana’s famous quote has become a mantra for many historians in promoting their increasingly ignored discipline.

The unfretted desire for material wealth alongside the want to satisfy every personal whim leaves little space for the philosophy of wise guys. And only when earth shattering events take place does one give one’s self a brief moment to reflect and even reminisce.  Often the rendezvous is nothing that hasn’t been seen before.

No matter how brutal or seismic, events rarely have an original context or motive. Of course whilst the past is increasingly given short shrift the most successful civilisations never truly forget.

Take the recent outcry over Ebola. The panic is undoubtedly exacerbated by greedy drug corporations. But strip away the layers of self interest and the apprehension is not entirely unreasonable. Europe remembers well the scourge of the bubonic plague which wiped out nearly half of the Continent’s population during the Middle Ages.  

Ebola may not as yet register on the same scale as a plague but better the stable door stay shut. Some see it as paranoia on part of the West and that it may be. But paranoia amongst the self aware is merely suspicion. Suspicion causes one to tread carefully and actually think about what is going on. The extra time this affords often leads to a more thoughtful and appropriate response. What of those who don’t buy themselves any time? Often this instinctive response is an emotional gesture and any paranoia becomes mass hysteria. In certain contexts the consequences are bloody and brutal.

An international news bulletin on the day of Ashura carried three headline stories from Iraq, Syria and the India/Pakistan border respectively. All three involved suicide attacks and the massacre of innocent people, mostly Shia pilgrims. The irony of course is not lost. On what should have been a day of solemn remembrance the latest Muslim story was one repetitive chapter after another of unimaginable brutality.

Human blood spilled on the very day that has caused such trauma in the psyche of almost every generation of Muslim. Almost fourteen centuries on and the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, Grandson of the Holy Prophet evokes bewilderment for those who reflect. How could it have come to this; where the one of sacred disposition was not even spared?

If ever there was a day where a moratorium on killing should have been ascribed by the nation of Muslims then this was it. The fact that we need an adopted position to not kill is perverse in itself but the current unrelenting cycle of blood letting requires such a shameful solution. Yet moratoriums are not decisions taken by the intellectually dysfunctional. They require some level of reasoning and awareness of what came before and what could follow if not stopped.

In 1984 when the Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, her son Ranjiv Ghandi who would later meet his own bloody demise sought to justify the pogroms that were taking place against Sikhs in the immediate aftermath. In a statement that still has a chilling affect Mother India’s heir spoke unrepentant: “When a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake.”

It says a lot about the communal mindset that even the natural order is not spared its warped logic. Surely mighty trees are felled by the shaking of the earth! Nevertheless when some of the perpetrators of the violence spoke years later about the folly of their actions they resorted to Ranjiv and his political acolytes in having stirred the pot and ratcheted the rhetoric of revenge. We were incited they said.

One may get incited but falling for the bait and resorting to violence and blood shedding says more about the perpetrators than the pot stirrers. Those who speak today of conspiring superpowers and brutality of foreign bodies might want to take this into consideration when viewing this latest round of brutality; a madness that has descended into a self-cannibalisation of a once glorious nation. 

To understand the true magnanimity of this latest round of brutality which has become a yearly custom, some understanding and contemplation of that fateful day at Karbala is necessary.

That of course means learning a little from your past.