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Manchester bombing: A reflection on the perils of intolerance

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As a society, we must be governed by compassion and empathy and co-exist with one another in harmony, writes Dev Arul Jayakumar.

Just before going to bed the other day, I checked the news on BBC and found myself staring in disbelief at the events pouring out of Manchester. Another bombing. More innocent lives lost.

We all assume that it has to do with Isis. But I am not here to discuss Isis – I am just struggling to understand what prompted the culprit to do such a thing.

How could someone detonate a bomb in a music arena packed with youths and children? The youngest to perish was only eight years old. How is it possible that some people can carry out such cruel acts of violence? Why are some people so intolerant of one another? And what separates us from them?

From a biological view point, we are all more or less the same. As people, we share almost similar physical attributes. We are all born with more or less the same physical structure. This includes both genders.

Yet, people are different based on factors that go beyond these physical attributes.

These factors could include different beliefs or religious practices. Take, for instance, Malaysia. We know that Islam is the official religion in this country. But other religions exist too, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. We all need to find a way to live alongside others despite the different ways we worship. After all, I’m guessing we all want the same thing: to live in harmony.

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Other differences may centre on how we view politics. Everybody has his or her preference as to how a country should be governed, how various policies should be formulated and implemented. Witness the ongoing campaigns and counter-campaigns between the current ruling coalition and the opposition parties.

Then there is our diverse cultural heritage – whether it is Indian, Chinese, Malay, Kadazan or Iban; where we come from and how we are brought up in our homes.

We also have different opportunities in life arising from our different socio-economic status. The rich and the poor have completely different lifestyles, as we can see in Malaysia. The wealthy are better able to sustain themselves as they have more than adequate income while those in poverty are unable to do so.

So ultimately, all individuals are different from one another. This is not necessarily negative. Diversity can be enriching.

Unfortunately, there are individuals who are incapable of accepting diversity or those who are different from them.

We live in a world where people seem to be afraid of things they do not understand. We see this in the random acts of terrorism carried out based on certain ideologies or political beliefs.

Around the world, some people treat immigrants cruelly – just because they are able to do so.

People who are poor also tend to be treated differently from the rich.

In some countries, women are treated as second class citizens and not given equal opportunities.

What can we do to stop this? We can start with ourselves. We can listen to those around us, especially people with whom we may disagree or dislike.

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The power of being more open-minded can be liberating and lead to change in ourselves. By being more understanding and patient, we can be more accepting of others.

Back to the bombing – terrorist acts, especially against children, in the name of politics or religious beliefs are utterly senseless. Such acts of terror bring about fear.

Yet, we must not let fear rule our lives. Fear, chaos, distortion, confusion, and propaganda often lead people to make rash decisions about others around them. They can also make us indifferent towards one another.

As a society, we must be governed by compassion and empathy no matter what. We have to co-exist in harmony with one another – no matter where we live and no matter what our politics, religious affiliation, gender, sexuality, language, race or cultural backgrounds may be.

Dev Arul Jayakumar is a pyschology graduate currently doing an internship with Aliran. He recently participated in an Aliran Young Writers Workshop on Youth and Activism.

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