By: Ali Gomaa


I have read an interesting article in which the author talked about the nations which committed self genocide and ethnocide. The author added that history did not record any nation which followed a meticulous plan to destroy itself like we do. We have reached a dreadful state of ignorance to an extent that we advocate for righteousness and promote for vice at the same time. In this article I will look at the history of some of these term and mention something that we can reflect on concerning our current state as individuals in a consumerist world.

The term genocide which means deliberate and systematic destruction and killing of a certain ethnic group whether partially or fully first appeared in 1944 and was used by the Polish Jewish Professor, Raphael Lemkin to describe the horrendous Nazi actions which, according to his opinion, were not limited to the Jews but extended to encompass annihilating other Eastern European communities. The term was well spread and was used since then to describe other historical events. The Quran itself describes Pharaoh’s attempt to destroy the Israelites and considered it a heinous crime. God says, “Indeed, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions, oppressing a sector among them, slaughtering their [newborn] sons and keeping their females alive. Indeed, he was of the corrupt.” 28:4

History has witnessed chapters of violence and killings such as William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, whose reign was plagued with violence to the English people especially in the beginning of his rule (1066-1072). Also the heinous actions which were committed by the American settlers against the original Indian inhabitants, along with the British colonialists and their attempts to annihilate the aboriginal Australians were all recorded. Other major acts of genocidal were perpetrated by the Germans in Western Africa (1904-1907) and by the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lemkin’s successful five-year effort to get different countries to recognize the issue of genocide on the international arena paid off when the United Nations announced the issuance of a law prohibiting genocide and designating it an international crime. The the law was first announced in January 21st in 1952 but was not met with much enthusiasm by the five permanent members of the Security Council. Only France and China approved it and then the former Soviet Union agreed to it later in 1954 followed by Great Britain in 1988. The resistance of some of the members of the Security Council led to the delay of its actual application till the 1990s before which it was merely ink on paper for four full decades.

The law indicated five actions which amount to genocide and are therefore worthy of being categorized as international crimes,they are as follows:

  • Killing the members of any group of people.
  • Causing serious physical or mental damage to any member of any group of people.
  • Deliberate damage to the living conditions of any group of people which necessarily leads to its extinction.
  • Forcing laws and extreme measures on any group of people which prevents them from procreation and reproduction.
  • Transferring the children of a certain group of people to another group.

As for ethnocide, it was mentioned by Lemkin in his famous article titled “Axis rule in occupied Europe” which was published in 1944. He managed to derive the original linguistic root of the term from Greek and latin origin just like he did with the term “genocide”. Ethnocide as a word consist of the Greek word “Ethnos” which means nation and the Latin suffix “cide” which means killing. Lemkin introduced this term on the footnote of the same page in which he used the term genocide. So he confirmed that the Nazis actions can also be described as ethnocide and not only genocide.

Although both genocide and ethnocide were introduced in the 1940s to describe the sadist, heinous Nazi crimes against the Jews, the term ethnocide did not gain as much attention as the term genocide did. The in the years following the United Nations’ declaration adopting an international law to criminalize genocide, deeming it an international crime, sociologists started to use the term ethnocide in a limited sense to refer only to genocide which is committed against a certain ethnicity or race.

The fact is that the term ethnocide is not limited to this confined meaning but actually extends to encompass other meanings. The term, for example, refers to any criminal actions towards a certain ethnicity even if it did not lead to the total annihilation of the ethnicity. This definition includes such measures as produce long term damage like minimizing the birth rate of a certain ethnicity or continuous attempts to prevent the transmission of a culture from one generation to another. Such measures lead to a state of disconnection between the future generations and their ancestors. More seriously, this term also encompasses the attempts of some people to eradicate the history of a certain ethnicity from the human history. Historical sources seem to indicate that the term ethnocide is used more in relation to prosecuted minorities than the term genocide.

The term ethnocide is close to the term “culturecide” and sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably. They both stem from the term genocide and therefore any of these two terms can be replaced with the term genocide. Sociologists confirm that the benefits of the usage of these two terms “ethnocide and culturecide” is that they can both be used to describe the criminal acts of some governments which, while criminal or objectionable, do not amount, leaglly, to genocide.

I have heard some of Sheikhs talking about the “hyena effect” which is similar to the concept of ethnocide. When the hyena wants to hunt its prey, it gazes at it and does what we can call “hypnosis” to it. Then the hyena walks, followed by its “hypnotized” prey, until the hyena reaches its den. The hyena then kills its prey by gripping it and urinating on it to anesthetized it so that it does not resist. The hyena effect is used to describe the person who walks towards his death while falsely thinking he is walking willingly and this false sense of willingness is out of his sheer ignorance of his circumstance.

The hyena effect usually comes from outside and this effect reminds me with the “hype” effect in the world of marketing when products are marketed to consumers. Therefore we, as Muslims, need to become the type of the rational consumer (whether the product is food, clothing, or education) aware of our circumstance and history, and not the type which accepts colonialism with total destructive conformity as was described by Malik ibn Nabi.