Staunton, December 17 – There is a dangerous trend at work in the world, the editors of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” say, one that involves substituting concern about individual human rights with an obsession about collective ones, a development that led to World War II in Europe at the end of the 1930s and threatens to lead to “a war of civilizations” now.
In a lead article today, the editors say that those who do so, including both “the diplomats of respectable governments” and representatives of “terrorist formations,” increasingly are dividing the world into groups of “our own” and “the alien others” (ng.ru/editorial/2015-12-17/2_red.html).
As a result and all too often, the paper continues, “’the individual no longer sounds as something to be proud of -- if he is not at one and the same time a Christian, a Muslim or a Buddhist.”
The editors point out that recently the Russian foreign ministry’s official responsible for human rights met with the Vatican secretary of state to discuss cooperation in the field of human rights, “but how did both sides understand the problem of human rights?” Not as being a question of individuals but of the treatment of whole groups.
Both focused on the issue of the ways in which “whole communities” have suffered as a result of ISIS actions, communities that have also suffered, the two suggested from “the attempts of a number of Western countries to impose neo-liberal conceptions and positions.” In the one case and the other, the individual got lost and groups were elevated to first rank.
They did not focus on the fact that “from the arbitrary actions of the militants suffer not only Christians and Yezidis but also Muslims.” And that represents “the main ‘achievement’ of the terrorists:” Syria’s population has been “transformed from one of citizens with equal rights into groups on which are hung ethno-confessional labels.”
“If in the contemporary world someone makes friends with someone else, then it is required that they be against a third,” the paper says. Thus, Patriarch Kirill calls for cooperation with the Vatican against Islamist threats even though “the two Churches formally call one another heretics.”
“Nezavismaya gazeta” continues: “Unfortunately, the idaels of the civilized world are reflected in the propaganda of the terrorists as in the devilish mirror of the evil troll from the stories of [Hans Christian] Andersen.” Many young people go to fight for ISIS because they believe that Sunni Muslims are being mistreated around the world.
And they can find evidence of that. “According to the principles of Goebbels’ propaganda, in a big lie, there must be a drop of truth;” and it is easy “to find in the police crudities of the authorities of Damascus and Baghdad and other capitals as well” evidence for these recruits.
But “what is still more dangerous,” the paper argues, “is that legitimate human rights defenders are playing the same notes. An entire group of people battling with Islamophobia has arisen.” And there too there has been “a substitution.” Specific violations of human rights are now discussed only in terms of communities rather than individuals.
This means that “the individual is converted into a cog of the propaganda machine and Islamophobia from a real problem into a scarecrow to frighten those in politics.”
“Let us remember,” “Nezavisimaya gazeta” says, “that the last world war was initiated by the Munich accord, which occurred after the Hitlerite campaign in defense of the Sudeten Germans. The Nazi approach to ‘the defense of human rights’ led not to the restoration of justice toward the Germans who were citizens of Czechoslovakia” but to the annexation of territory.
Today, the world is at risk of crossing the same line “by giving priority to the rights of communities over the rights of individuals,” an approach that divides everyone into groups consisting of “us” and “them” and opens the way for cooperation among groups which have little in common on the basis of opposition to “the other.”