NationalVolume 14 Issue # 16

Warning signs for Muslims

The killing of 50 Muslims, including nine Pakistanis, in the Christchurch mosque shootings is a serious warning for Muslims in the West. If it happened in one of the most peaceful countries of the world, which has a population of over four million and Muslims make up little over one per cent of it, Muslims in other countries need to be more careful.

Experts say the New Zealand massacre was a fallout of decades of systematic victimization of Muslims and growing hatred against them in the West. Muslims around the world endure demonization, hatred and discrimination on a daily basis. The terrorist is part of a transnational far-right movement that has root in other places – from Norway to Germany. Experts tracking the rise of far-right terrorism say extremism has been growing in New Zealand and the warning signs of an attack had been apparent. For a long time, New Zealand had assumed that extremism did not exist there but the gruesome incident has shattered the myth. The Muslim population in New Zealand is small but growing. According to the 2013 census, the number of people affiliating with the Muslim religion increased 27.9 per cent from 2006, from 36,072 people to 46,149.

New Zealand boats of being a peaceful home to 213 ethnicities. Its prime minister’s pointed out that the perpetrator was an Australia-born person, implying that its own people would not commit such a terrible act. However, it is a fact that the number of Islamaphobic attacks have surged all over the world in recent years. In its annual report, Tell MAMA, an organization measuring anti-Muslim attacks, noted a surge in the number of Islamaphobic attacks in the United Kingdom, with 1,201 verified reports submitted in 2017, a rise of 26pc on the year before and the highest number since it began recording incidents. It says anti-Muslim sentiment is “becoming a global issue and a binding factor for extremist far-right groups and individuals. It is a threat that needs to be taken seriously.”

According to the UK Home Office, the number of recorded hate crimes has more than doubled in the past five years in the country. The US and many other Western countries do not collect data about acts based on anti-Muslim motivation or content or those in which the victim was targeted because of their Muslim identity. If anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased in the United Kingdom, why New Zealand or any other Christian country would remain a “tolerant society,” experts ask.

The unpleasant truth about the New Zealand attack is that it was not an isolated incident. The terrorist’s manifesto makes it clear that he thought along the same lines as some Western politicians, who have been spreading anti-Muslim sentiment for years. Another inconvenient truth is that many Western governments still believe that anti-Muslim terror falls within the scope of freedom of expression. In most cases, advocacy of violence is not considered a crime if white people are involved in it. Today’s toxic environment could not have existed without the West’s tacit complicity in the spread of racism and Islamophobia around the world. The systematic alienation, marginalization and exclusion of immigrants and Muslims by Western societies created the illusion that they can be targeted – in their homes, at their offices or during prayers – without actual consequences.

There was no surprise when US President Donald Trump called the Christchurch attack “a terrible thing” but stopped short of calling it a terrorist attack. When asked by a CNN anchor whether he sees white nationalism as a rising threat around the world, President Trump said: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet. They’re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it’s certainly a terrible thing, terrible thing.”

Anti-immigration ideals were a significant part of the 74-page manifesto of the Christchurch mosque attacker. It declares that one of the goals of the shooting is to “directly reduce immigration rates to European lands by intimidating and physically removing the invaders themselves.” The term “invaders” is peppered throughout the document, a reference to the Muslim population, who, according to the manifesto, “seek to occupy my peoples lands and ethnically replace my own people.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also put on a hit list, targeted because “few have done more to damage and racially cleanse Europe of its people.” According to the most recent figures from the FBI, hate crimes in the US rose 17 percent in 2017 compared to the year before. And newly-released data from the Anti-Defamation League shows white supremacist propaganda efforts in neighborhoods and on campus increased 182 percent in the country last year.

Experts say immigration has been an issue in New Zealand but bias against Muslim immigration hasn’t been as vocal as in Europe. The UK has beefed up security of mosques after the New Zealand terror attack. It is “perfectly possible” that a far-right attack like that seen in New Zealand could happen in the UK,” Security Minister Ben Wallace told the Commons. “The UK is seeing a growing threat from the far right. The attack must be a wake-up call for social media firms, who should be ashamed they enabled the shootings to be live-streamed and shared,” he added.

Experts say the Christchurch attack is the failure of leaders of the whole world because they were either part of it or did not try hard to stop it. The media needs to act more responsibly in its reporting. It was not a coincidence that almost all leading news organizations of the world described the massacre as a shooting, not terrorism, because a white man was involved in it and Muslims were the victims. National security organizations around the world will have to work harder to prevent such incidents in future. The Christchurch terrorist had been signaling his intention to harm others, but he could not be stopped from acting upon his plans. The West will have to address the root causes of right-wing radicalization to stop further bloodshed.