Lay off my parking space

Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
MY VIEW - The Sun Daily
February 18, 2015

FINALLY, US President Barack Obama broke the silence to condemn the "execution" of three Muslim students in North Carolina by a neighbour who allegedly espoused hatred for other religions. Belatedly, he regarded it as "brutal and outrageous" after being criticised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for keeping unusually silent despite the attack being widely reported.

"Three Muslims have been murdered in North Carolina and President Obama, (secretary of state, John) Kerry and (Vice-President Joe) Biden have not made any statement about it," Erdogan remarked alongside President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico during a state visit last week.

He noted that the silence was "telling" as politicians they should have taken a position following the heinous crime as they are quick to most of the time. He went on saying: "If you stay silent, when faced with an incident like this, and don't make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you." That seems to do it although the White House earlier said that it would wait for the results of the police investigation focusing on cars parked in unassigned spaces which the suspect Craig Hicks, reportedly called "my parking lot". Authorities have been quoted to say that the perpetrator could have snapped when one of the murdered victims parked in a lot that Hicks thought was his. This may not be an isolated incident as one Michael Nam, neighbour of the triple murder suspect has admitted: "I've actually had a guy pull out his gun over my taking his parking space." Although hate-based crime has not been ruled out, chances are they are inter-related.

Alas, history is littered with similar examples of disputes over "unassigned parking spaces" whereby others conveniently claimed them in the belief that they are terra incognita, "unassigned" or unknown, regardless if there have been owners or inhabitants living on the land (or seas, mare incognita) for years on end. They quickly constructed a narrative of "new" discovery of sorts where the likes of Columbus was made a "discoverer" overnight when he allegedly "discovered" a land mass that later became the United States of America. Never mind if he mistook it for the Indian subcontinent, and renamed the indigenous people "Indians". That the "new" land was "unoccupied" continues until today in US popular history that still crowns Christopher Columbus as the "discoverer of America". The Columbus Quincentenary commemoration in 1992 was a testimony that 500 years later none of the myth placed on Columbus, the discoverer, has diminished. Whereas, in actual fact, his true historical legacy is more nuanced because America was first founded by a host of indigenous populations and descendants dating long before Columbus's arrival in 1492. Some sources said they were there at least 13,500 years ago diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. Based on oral histories of the indigenous American people, they have been there since their genesis.

Not unlike the victims of the Chapel Hill murder, they too were intimidated with many thousands massacred in cold blood. While the precise number of native people in America before Columbus is difficult to pinpoint, estimates put the percentage that diminished somewhere between 80% and 90% within just the first centuries of contact with the European intruders. Beside infectious diseases such as smallpox, measles, and cholera, which were brought from Europe and spread quickly due to the lack of immunity to the diseases, loss of lives of the indigenous population was further exacerbated by violent conflicts between them and the "discoverers" right up to the 19th century. The former frequently encountered genocides and "executions" or were enslaved. Some who were subjected to years of gross mistreatment, began to adopt suicidal behaviours, with women aborting or killing their infants and the adults ingesting poisonous substances or by other means.

In other words, what happened in North Carolina mirrored much of the US history of space-land grabs. While Obama cautioned: "No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like or how they worship," those outside of the US are not spared. Many continued to suffer the most horrendous kind of treatment in proxy wars in the name of land grabs of nations that are well endowed with rich natural resources.

Learning from the tragedy that took place in the Chapel Hill community, all so-called "parking spaces" in the international community must be safeguarded so that the Hicks of the world will not wantonly claim what is not theirs to be theirs and commit more murders in the process.

With some four decades of experience in education locally and internationally, the writer believes that another world is possible. Comments: