On March 15, 50 people were killed in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers. The terrorist attack was premeditated for three months, according to the 74-page manifesto posted by the alleged attacker. While many around the world were horrified, and rightfully so, it certainly was not shocking.
Anyone paying attention to the news in the past 15 years shouldn’t have been shocked. Not only because this has happened before — there was a shooting in Canada two years ago and another in London the same year — but because the hostility toward Muslims post-9/11 and post-ISIS has been festering on the sidelines for the past decade, noticeable only to Muslims.
Leaders condemning the attack and supporting Muslims during this hard time were the same leaders who have allowed this hate to fester.
The attacker’s manifesto was a collection of political ideologies and thoughts we have been hearing from mainstream politicians for years, both conservative and liberal alike.
It was President Donald Trump who said that “Islam hates us” and that “people are coming out of mosques with hatred and death in their eyes and on their minds.” It was Sen. Ted Cruz during the 2016 presidential election who called for law enforcement to “secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” It was Sen. Lindsey Graham during that same election who said, “If I have to monitor a mosque, I’ll monitor a mosque.” It was Bill Maher who said that Islam is like a “mafia.” And it was author and public intellectual Sam Harris who said that the U.S. is not at war with terrorism but “at war with Islam.” All of these examples did not cause the shooting to happen, and it does not mean that the people mentioned above are directly related to the attack. However, it is evident that violence, hatred and bigotry do not grow in a vacuum, but grow unnoticed for long intervals of time.
Furthermore, hours after the attack, Sen. Fraser Anning of Australia in a statement said that “whilst violent vigilantism can never be justified, what it highlights is the growing fear within our community of the increasing Muslim presence …. The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place …. Those who follow a violent religion that calls on them to murder us cannot be too surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kind.”
This statement can only be perceived in one way: “The Muslims had it coming.” It is no surprise when white supremacy groups feel protected by officials in office and verified ideologically by global leaders; they know they’ll have the support regardless of their extreme actions.
While the global community’s support for Muslims has been overwhelming, thoughtful, and quite frankly, a little unexpected, that support seems to go only skin deep. Those who stand with us today might not stand so firmly tomorrow in the midst of complex immigration issues, or in confronting anti-Muslim rhetoric in the media, or in standing up for other Muslims across the world due to unjust foreign policy. For those issues, the support plummets and is almost invisible.
Just after a week, the discussion has dialed down, and the world has moved on. But for those who lost spouses, fathers, mothers, siblings or children, they continue to mourn their loved ones’ unexpected demise for simply performing the purest of acts — praying peacefully.
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