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by
Abraham H. Miller

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December 5, 2010 - 12:00 am
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It would not be sufficient to expose such evil, but to explore the attributes of the human condition that nurture hatred, as well as those characteristics that could insulate humanity from it. Focusing on how to motivate people to embrace freedom rather than to submit to hatred, even in dark times, is the ultimate quest for human dignity.

A wealth of long-dormant social-psychological material, which grew out of our experience with the dual totalitarian evils of Communism and Nazism, engaged these questions. Fanatical Islam, like most fanatical movements, is simply another variation of the totalitarian mindset. The academic work on authoritarianism that emerged from  the experience with Nazism is most relevant to our understanding of the conditions that enable hatred to flourish. R.E. Money-Kyrle’s psychological studies of the Nazis and the massive work on socialization and child-rearing patterns leading to authoritarianism and fascism, directed by T. W. Adorno, immediately come to mind.

Every day the violence that grows out of Islamist fanatics reminds us of these totalitarian ideologies. It is time to reopen the research that scholars did after World War II into totalitarianism and apply that learning to an understanding of the most recent incarnation of that mindset — fundamentalist Islam.

To this end, the creation of  a plaza and learning center, as envisioned by the Wallenberg Foundation’s Peter Lancz, is a most appropriate undertaking for New York, America, and all people concerned with stopping the spread of hatred. The murder of innocents in the name of a venomous ideology is a crime whose significance transcends the victims. It speaks a universal language, for it beckons us to consider the tragic deaths of all those murdered in the name of ideology or religion. In the spirit of the idea that he who murders a single person kills all of humanity, Ground Zero belongs to all people of conscience who stand in opposition to evil. It is our moral obligation to those who have fallen that this symbol is neither appropriated nor entrusted to those who would blight the memory of the victims.

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Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.
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