Ivann Bibi, Nouveau Front Politik
“When the fundamental principles of human rights are not protected, the centre of our institution no longer holds. It is they that promote development that is sustainable; peace that is secure; and lives of dignity.” – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
“We declare that human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientation.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
“The golden rule of conduct is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different points of vision.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Tolerance is a virtue, or, at least—it should be. Which would make its opposite, intolerance, a sin.
Recent events in Mauritius have started to test the fabric of Mauritian society, to challenge our levels and adherence to the principles of human rights (i) and tolerance: raising red flags not just here at home, but also internationally. Some people are pointing the finger at radical Islam, others at the LGBT community, and others still at the current government administration.
So, who is to blame–what has led to this predicament? And, how do we emerge from this dizzying societal tailspin, which has thrown the proverbial “wrench” into our soul as a “rainbow” nation, and could put our entire economy, and democracy, at risk?
To start with, let us be honest: the culprits are many. It is not just one person, or groups of people, that are to blame. We see evidence of a systemic problem in Mauritius, one that has been exploited for far too long. Let us, however, also be very clear: the culprits are NOT the Mauritian Muslim community, nor are they members or supporters of the LGBT community in Mauritius. They are fringe groups, small factions of society that are preaching hate and intolerance—or at least encouraging it—in order to stir up emotions and gain support for their own private, selfish agendas. These small factions use religion and homophobia (in the past it has been race, class, or even caste), as a cover for hate and intolerance: two ingredients that form part of the recipe for social unrest, for civil war.
Finally, let us be real: supporting hate and intolerance is not always something that is done actively–it can be a passive act too. One did not necessarily have to be present at the illegal anti-LGBT demonstration in Port-Louis on Saturday 2nd June 2018 to support the intolerance that emanated from this gathering. In fact, just staying silent/quiet in the face of not only such blatant disrespect for the rule of law, but also the violation of international human rights laws and covenants as well as the universal declaration of human rights, can also be construed as support for such intolerance: particularly when it comes from political leaders and figures—both elected or not.
In this context, none standout more than our dear old friends, those perpetually in and out of parliament/government: the “dinosaur” politicians; those elected, formerly elected, and even wanna-be elected, public officials and personas that have since forever filled our parliamentary halls. It is very telling that no-one from either Alan Ganoo’s party, the MP, or Navin Ramgoolam’s party, the PTR, or even from Roshi Bhadain’s alleged “reform” party, spoke a word about what had transpired on Saturday afternoon at Place D’Armes, Port-Louis, Mauritius until at least after 24 hours after it had occurred. Most only did so after some 48 hours had elapsed. Whilst others, over 6 days later, had still not peeped a single word.
Their silence has, indeed, been deafening.
Even more disturbing is that this applies not only to the political figures and leaders of these party’s: but to their whole parties and platforms as well. Illustrative of this fact is the post on Facebook page. (ii)
The phrase “ki kalite leader zot ete san bann la alor?” is one of the first that comes to mind, when digesting these facts. Sad. Shameful. And all too true.
The government, what is left of the soi-disant “L’alliance Lepep,” the MSM and ML parties, fare no better: with “No Comment” being the only utterance from both our Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Tourism for over a week after the incident in question. Our Prime Minister has made a few feeble statements about preserving the rule of law—but to date no actions have been taken: not even one single arrest (despite numerous reported serious death threats). Meanwhile, some international tour operators are refusing bookings to Mauritius online, others are warning or dissuading their customers not to book vacations to Mauritius.
Our democracy is indeed weak, and in trouble, when government stands down to the forces of hate and intolerance: and either refuses, or is unable, to uphold the law. Our way of life is threatened when our elected, and aspiring to be elected, political leaders publicly preach allegiance to one community of citizens over all others; when they turn their backs on all their other fellow citizens, shunning the need for the common good to prevail. For peace, love, equality, and tolerance are the things that dreams are made out of: this IS the “Mauritian Dream.” It is the crux of that semi-elusive terminology, extrapolated from the historical speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on August 28th 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington DC, USA: “I Have A Dream.”
Dr. King’s famous words, his call to arms, his dream of a more perfect, tolerant, peaceful, inclusive society not only for America—but also the world-at-large—was something that we have lived by, and continue to live by, today in Mauritius: that is our “Mauritian Dream.”
Our country is not perfect. Not even close.
We have our problems, and we have our hurdles—and we will, in time, have many more. But above all, above all our problems, our hurdles, and our ups and downs we have each other: our “Mauritian Dream;” our “Unity in Diversity,” our tolerance of one another despite all our differences on this small, isolated, tropical island that we all call home. It is our duty to preserve her, preserve our “Mauritian Dream” and even expand on it, so that one day we can truthfully say of ourselves: “If Dr. King had been alive today in Mauritius: he would be proud.”
There are many ways that we can start to heal the pain. One such way is found in a beautiful article I recently read in the Forum page of Le Mauricien, that I will only quote from here but you can find the full version in the link in the endnotes below, by Saffiyah Edoo, entitled: “In Conversation with non-Muslims and Muslims.” (iii) In her article Saffiyah states that as a path for navigating our differences within society we should encourage,
“…communities [to] provide a safe space of dialogue for people who are struggling to conciliate their religious identity with the way they are seeing the world. These safe spaces should also be the place for awareness, education, and promotion of values without bigotry.”
I find this suggestion absolutely marvelous, and praise Saffiyah Edoo not only for her article, but her good judgment in assessing the situation and trying to find a working solution. In effect, she is suggesting safe spaces, where tolerance plays a prime role.
We need political leaders and public officials and persons, both elected and not, in Mauritius who are willing and able to help us preserve, and expand on, our “Mauritian Dream.” To help us in our endeavors to create more fully inclusive “Mauritian Nation.”
We need new leaders in Mauritius, who can help us solve problems—not ones that are exacerbating them, or, who they themselves are part of the problem. If you cannot identify a problem, then you will never be able to solve it. Similarly, as a political leader/figure: if you don’t raise your voice against intolerance, injustice, and persecution—then by your silence, you are complicit. In such a case, unlike the silence of the lambs headed to the slaughterhouse: such a silence is not a silence of the innocent.
In parting, please allow me to leave you with a favorite quote of mine from Pope Francis to ponder:
“Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.” – Pope Francis.
Salam my friends.