Mob Psychology and the Sialkot Lynching Case

By Sonya Rehman

Watch the gruesome Youtube clip of the Sialkot lynching incident of the brothers, Mughees and Muneeb, and you will wonder why no one tried to stop the demonic perpetrators.

What brought on the animalistic instinct of the executors and the crowds of wide-eyed onlookers, who crowded around the two bleeding, flailing bodies, as the young men were thrashed repeatedly, mercilessly?

As reported in a daily English paper today, one of the accused said that the DPO, Waqar Chohan, present on the scene goaded the accused into partaking in the violence by saying: “Go ahead and kill both of them. The police will claim responsibility for the killings and declare it a police encounter.”

The victims – Mughees & Muneeb

But even if Chohan didn’t give any verbal approval, his presence during the lynching along with the other cops provided a silent nod of approval for the murderers to carry out their fury.

The police’s indifferent presence owed to the fueling of the fire.

Acts of murder and violence carried out by wrathful mobs have been taking place for centuries. On both colossal and micro scales. Think the French Revolution, the brutality that followed through the partition of India and Pakistan during the population exchange, groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi gangs, religious fundamentalist groups, mobs of ordinary citizens who raise bloody murder against their governments, against other religious groups, against minorities, and the list is endless.

Given this horrifying case, the question really is this; why in God’s name did anyone not try to stop the atrocity from taking place? Why weren’t Mughees and Muneeb rescued?

According to the Scottish journalist, Charles Mackay, in his book, ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’, said: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

From a psychological perspective, men resorting to ‘herd behaviour’ begin replicating acts that the rest of the ‘herd’ is carrying out.

For an individual, being part of a mob, means having a sort of subconscious security that no harm will befall the individual since he is one with the mob.

Sigmund Freud’s crowd behaviour theory sheds light on how when individuals act collectively as a group, their enthusiasm is increased, leading to a breakdown in individual thinking.

This allows collective thinking and a collective approach to overrule. Therefore, the individual stands blinded. He is stripped naked of his self-awareness for those fleeting minutes or hours and this is when he allows himself to be ‘led’ by the herd.

Regarding mob psychology and crowd behaviour in psychology, the theories are numerous and intriguing. Once studied, the motives behind heinous acts of violence on innocent people by mobs can be better understood.

Regarding Mughees and Muneeb, justice must follow through swiftly.

Or else, tomorrow, other victims like Mughees and Muneeb can fall prey to acts of violence in an already ruptured society.

The Express Tribune Blog

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. rabiashahid says:

    I really think that this society is so frustrated that this whole unfortunate incident was a source of entertainment for the people standing there, it includes everyone, the man making the video on the cell phone, the people and police watching and the men doing the beating. Its sick, its not Mob Psychology its the degenerating state of our society. I dont think the French Revolution can be compared to this because then there was a justifiable reason behind all the violence (sorry i am not a pacifist).It was a revolution where people stood up for their rights. what justification do we have here?

    1. Sonya Rehman says:

      It is mob psychology.

      But I understand what you’re saying. I’m not justifying what happened to the brothers, dear, far from it. I gave the example of The French Revolution as an example of a mass movement ‘against’ something; whether right or wrong.

      Read and understand a post before commenting on someone’s blog. Thanks.

  2. Rabia says:

    I never said that u are supporting/ justifying what happened, i just expressed my views that this seems much deeper than mob psychology. My last line “what justification do we have here?” was meant in a food for thought fashion, because if this is a mob psychology case then what forced the mob to act in such ghastly fashion!

  3. Gafoor says:

    This is definitely the result of a combined effect of two things 1)Mob psychology and 2) Failure of Law enforcement. It does not potray Pakistan as a ghastly place, although the killings were brutal and unjustified. Such things happen everywhere, women accused of withcraft are burnt alive in many european countries. In India there have been a few incidents like this in backward states like Bihar and UP. Public trials and mob carrying out punishments have happened in Indonesia, Burma, and many middle eastern countries. The reason such occurances do not happen in UK or the US is because the police forces there are educated enough to know the law, and abide by it. In Asian countries, the police have minimal education, draw low salaries, are unaware of the law and lack training in tactful handling of situations and often detest policing. Nothing to worry…such things will happen.

  4. fatima says:

    it indicates insensitivity & numbness on part of the nation- a sign of extreme depression though. All these ongoing crisis & our brutal response to them are also indicators of Almighty,s avenge. Y on earth did the worst flood in living history happened in Pakistan. Those who are still unaffected should beg for his forgiveness and surrender before him, apart from managing the chaos in every possible way.

  5. maryam says:

    I really feel sorry for the unjust, gruesome and BRUTAL act that happened to those dear beloved brothers. I dont know what to say, i cant sleep because of the terror that is penetrated in me…the terror of violence, the terror of unfair attitudes..the terror of injustice…I just saw the glimpse in news, cant withstand the brutality that was showing in video. How the people over there in Sialkot were standing and seeing all the cruel and wicked act including the women there who were in their balconies!!!These (Cruel, and wicked)are literally very small and innocent words in front of that ZULM. It’s the moment to think what has happened to us? Are we forgetting the teachings Islam…what we are showing to the whole world? The real face of our system, our culture our ethics…????Why we are so intolerant? where is the patience? .. I cant sleep whenever i think of the mother of them…what shock that mob has given to her.. Alas!
    But Allah says “Allah sabar karne walon k saath hai”. Why the public has taken power in their hands?why public has made their own Supreme Courts? why they killed them??? If they were feeling that the innocent boys committed something; why did not they follow the rules and regulations? Why did not they ask from court to intervene? What we call this act? The barbarism of strong people towards the innocent boys. It’s a torture for me as long as I am alive, I cant forget this incident…how wicked society we have… The people who are involved must be punished, must be sentenced, Allah is seeing everything, Allah is with innocents, He will do the justice. INSHAALLAH.
    There is no word in this world by which we can console the mother of those boys. The whole family has been ruined……. Even we do not know them but we are emotionally and morally ruined. We will forget all this in few more days because we are habitual of forgetting…

    its the moment of doing something good for society and for our coming generation…so that no one can do such act again….. no one can ruin any mother.. kese uss maan ko qarar aiga? kese wo soti hogi? usko neend kese ati hogi uss k do jawan bete jigar k tokrray uss k laal uss ki jaan ko un zalimon ne barbariyat aur berehmi se maar dala…… koi sochay….

    In last fatima is right, We should Ask and beg forgiveness from Allah, Allah is annoyed thats why we are victims of such outraged and furious flood….

  6. fawadkhan says:

    the real jugment day is still remaining and the will be jughed and bestowd by the great all mighty………… and dat day is not far so much as i belive………

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