Gurpreet Singh: Memoir of former neo-Nazi is a must read to understand reasons behind growing bigotry in Trump era

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      The Cure for Hate: A Former White Supremacist's Journey from Violent Extremism to Radical Compassion couldn’t have come at a better time as the world is grappling with growing threat of populism and the alt-right movement.

      Penned by Tony McAleer, the book delivers startling revelations about his previous life as a white supremacist who hated Jews, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

      The story of his life’s journey as a youthful neo-Nazi who once believed that whites were an endangered species helps readers understand where hate comes from. The book also reveals how hate is exploited by white nationalists to rope in impressionable teenagers to be mobilized against minorities.

      Ironically, a Jewish psychologist helped inspire McAleer to abandon his racist ideology. This led to the creation of Life After Hate, an initiative started by him and others in 2011 to prevent young people from being lured into hate groups. His firsthand experience with racist ideology therefore also offers us a solution to deal with the problem.

      McAleer’s work is important especially under current circumstances, following the emergence of Donald Trump as U.S. president and the increased presence of far right parties on the political landscape of Canada. As we are heading toward a crucial federal election on October 21 and with white nationalism on the rise, his book provide some answers in the quest for what's behind this phenomenon.

      For example, McAleer writes extensively about how fear of the unknown was created by the neo-Nazi leadership, with immigrants frequently blamed for “taking away jobs” during 1990s. This led to violent attacks against racialized groups.

      He even takes “moral responsibility” for the 1998 murder of Nirmal Singh Gill, a caretaker at the Guru Nanak Sikh temple in Surrey, even though he was not directly involved in the crime.

      Gill was beaten to death in the temple’s parking lot. Five skinheads involved in the racially motivated hate crime were eventually convicted and sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison after they pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

      The book reveals that Gill once tried to stop neo-Nazis from vandalizing cars parked at the gurdwara at great personal risk as part of his duties. Not only that, Gill tried to resist their attempt to steal his iron bracelet that all practising Sikhs wear as an article of faith. 

      Years after the murder, McAleer paid a visit to the temple to pay his respect to the deceased. At the temple, he indicated that even though he was not involved in the killing, he can’t claim “zero percent” responsibility because his racist propaganda may have been a contributing factor.

      He now wants part of the proceedings from the sale of his book to go to the gurdwara to help the temple keep Gill’s legacy alive. Those who want to be a part of this initiative can order it online through Arsenal Pulp Press—publisher of the memoir—by typing in the code “nirmal”. 

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi.

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