TODAY IS Holocaust Memorial Day – and Cllr Rabina Khan has marked the occasion with an article in The Independent. She explores how words can be used to encourage hate and even provoke violence – and how we can use words to defeat the hate.
Cllr Khan’s article chimes in with the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January this year – “The Power of Words”. “People are easily influenced; the words people use, and the way people say them, have a profound effect on us,” she writes. “They can also tap into our desire to ‘fit in with the crowd’.”
Cllr Khan observed this first hand shortly after she came to Tower Hamlets. She was working on the Isle of Dogs as the British National Party (BNP) were spreading the same kind of hatred as led to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany – their ideological predecessors.
On the Island, Cllr Khan – and the many anti-fascist activists – saw how the whole community came together to take on the fascists and win. The Bangladeshi community (then the largest BAME community on the Island) took heart from the emerging solidarity and common purpose and marched proudly to the polling stations, side by side with new friends.
The words which the BNP had used to encourage the long term white community to unite around the racist right were turned back as the united community spoke louder – in words, and also by organising events to show their unity.
In The Independent, Cllr Khan takes a wider view of the politics of hatred and its fatal consequences. It was not only the Nazis who played on fears to build up their support. We have seen similar genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda – and most recently in Myanmar, to the Rohingya
Has the world learned nothing? No – on the contrary: we now have Donald Trump in office, raging against Muslims and refugees and Mexicans. It’s all the worse, and quicker, now he can use social media to reach a wide audience
Cllr Khan also champions individual experiences. Not only does she tell the story of her own encounter with an ignorant bus driver, she also reminds us that the suffering caused by the Holocaust and the ideology behind us was most famously told by a young woman – Anne Frank.
What Cllr Khan has not had the space to do is to explore the link between the use of words to spread the politics of hate and the state of the economy when and where this has been most successful. Why does the ideology fall on deaf ears many times – and then take off on other occasions. Often it is when a population feels threatened and insecure financially. Perhaps that will be the subject of a future article.
•Read Cllr Khan’s article here:
Cllr Khan’s article in The Independent