Migrant’s murder: the fault is ours

An edited version of this post was uploaded on The Times of Malta.

Since Friday night I – together with the sane and humane part of the island – have been following the aftermath to the murder of Mohammed Abdalla (Mamdou Kamara) with shock and disbelief.

Some six months ago I had dared point out on my blog how rich it is that we, as a nation, persist in patting ourselves on the back and promoting ourselves as “the kindest” and then think nothing of exhibiting the most disgustingly racist prejudices.

Scorn was heaped upon me, mostly because most of us don’t appear to get the concept of a “collective conscience”. The responses to my post all brought forward similar excuses; “I’m not racist”; “don’t generalise”; “we’re not all like that”.

We might not all be racist. I know I’m not. However, the death of Abdalla means only one thing; as a nation, we have failed. The shock that this murder has caused is so sharp that at the moment the whole country is baying for the blood of the perpetrators. And rightly so.

However, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that our conscience is clear just because now we decide to condemn vociferously. It’s not.

If we have arrived to this stage, it is only because as a community we have allowed sentiments of hatred and intolerance to increase gradually and drastically until we’re at a point when life has lost its sacred value. I’m not using the word sacred in its religious sense, but in the moral sense.

Merely meting out retribution to the person/people who delivered the blows should do nothing to clear our conscience. The tragedy only happened because somewhere along the line we – yes we, as a nation – lost sight of the real priorities in life.

Because preserving our “national purity” (Ha! What purity?) became more important than saving a life.

Because squabbling over “who is responsible” became more important than saving a life.

Because checking paperwork and instilling a sense of “us against them” became more important than saving a life.

So yes, we have all failed. Just by keeping our mouths shut every time a racist comment is made. Or every time we laugh at a racist joke (don’t bother denying). It is such small details that gradually build upon the hatred and lead to things spiralling out of control.

The time to be complacent is over. People are already trying to find excuses for last Friday’s tragedy. The migrant was violent. The migrant was mentally disturbed. The migrant was here illegally.

That’s as may be. Even assuming that all these statements are correct, there is only one fact that matters. Taking life, unless in extreme self-defence, is never justified.

And given that what we had here was a situation of one restrained man who was imprisoned in a van, please let’s not even try going down that road.