THE world is shocked by the news of senseless killing of worshippers attending the obligatory Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
It would not have been regarded as cataclysmic had the incident occurred in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan as the world had been conditioned to expect such violent incidents in these conflict zones. For in these areas, US drones or planes have been bombing schools, hospitals and places of worship killing civilians. The deaths are justified as collateral damage.
Likewise, the IS or Al Qaeda killing of civilians would be condemned but acknowledged as their standard operating procedure. So too would Israel’s bombing and killing of Palestinian civilians, which is regarded as the norm and not the exception. These are expected casualties in a conflict zone.
But in the land of literally milk and honey, with a panoramic scenic vista of some of the world’s best scenery that is both therapeutic and energising, the massacre of worshippers in two mosques, the Al Noor and Linwood Avenue, shattered the peaceful and harmonious environment of Christchurch, which many New Zealanders have taken for granted. A shocking reality set in when the sounds of gun fire in the two mosques shattered the placid and peaceful environment, bringing to notice that violence lurks in the most unexpected places.
This massacre was pre-meditated and co-ordinated. This is shown by the nature of armaments used, improvised explosive devices seized and the live-streaming of the shooting as well as posting of the attacker’s manifesto called The Great Replacement, which described his belief, modus operandi and his anti-immigrant stance.
The killer ranted his resentment against the immigrant community, whom he accused of taking up whites’ land and the need to safeguard the nation for future generations. He may have been inspired by radical right wing factions in Europe and Eastern Europe where he had visited.
Wars and persecution in the Middle East have opened the flood gates pushing migrants to other countries. This sometimes creates tensions between the locals who view the migrants with suspicion and as possible threats.
And it is not helpful either when lawmakers such as Senator Fraser Anning from Queensland, Australia weigh in with hateful rhetoric on the migrants.
The senator went on to blame the immigrants for provoking the massacre by virtue of their presence soiling the purity of the land of white people.
This is the kind of irresponsible rhetoric that sows hatred and distorts Islam while provoking and encouraging white ethno-supremacists to perpetrate attacks. And the western controlled media played a significant part in perpetuating this perception.
This has in a way shaped the public opinion of Islam and its adherents as miscreants posing a threat to others.
The New Zealand Government must not only be vigilant against foreign terrorists but must also direct its attention on home-grown groups and diffuse the threat of white supremacy with the aim of fostering greater understanding between the immigrant communities and the locals. A positive outcome of this episode is the outpouring of sympathy and material contributions of the locals towards the Muslim community.
Let not the action of one person tarnish the good image of the New Zealanders who are by nature peaceful and caring evidenced by the coming together of various communities irrespective of race or religion to help the beleaguered Muslim community. The sombre and emotional picture of the New Zealand prime minister says it all.
Let this apocalyptic incident be a catalyst for compassion and understanding that generates peace and goodwill among humans.
Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin is with the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org