On March 15, 2019, a white supremacist opened fire at two mosques in New Zealand, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more. Within a week, New Zealand banned all semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines, opened their Parliament with an Islamic prayer, and taught police about Islam in the very mosque where the tragedy took place. This swift and effective response is an excellent example of how a functional government should behave after such a devastating tragedy.
Prior to murdering 50 people, the terrorist published a 73-page manifesto. In it, he proclaimed his goal as “crushing immigration and deporting those invaders already living on our soil [and to] ensure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” He also praised current U.S. President Donald Trump, calling him “a symbol of renewed white identity and a common purpose.” Trump has proclaimed himself to be a nationalist and said in response to this attack that he believes white supremacy is “ a small group of people that have serious problems.” This, however, could not be further from the truth. In fact, their numbers are only growing. According to data provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, white nationalist groups have increased from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148 in 2018. Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League has reported an increase in not only the distribution of white supremacist propaganda but also an increase in the number of rallies and demonstrations by white supremacy groups, from 76 in 2017 to 91 in 2018. A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found the number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators quadrupled in the U.S. between 2016 and 2017, and that far-right attacks in Europe rose 43 percent over the same period.
Senator Fraser Anning of Queensland released a repulsive statement in response to the shooting, effectively blaming Muslims for what happened to them. In it, he named Islam as the “violent ideology of a sixth-century despot masquerading as a religious leader” and “the religious equivalent of fascism.” He called Muslims “followers of this savage belief” and said that “just because they are not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.” He follows that statement with, “as we read in Matthew 26:52, all those who take the sword shall perish by the sword. 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.” Besides grossly using Matthew 26:52 out of context, he is defending someone who murdered 50 individuals, one of whom was just three years old. He is defending a terrorist and justifying his actions by claiming they were perpetrated on the legitimate fear of a growing Muslim presence. To say less than a week after 50 Muslims were killed in their place of worship that “today they are the victims, but usually they are the perpetrators” is despicable. To say to a community in mourning that they are to blame for what happened to their fellow brothers and sisters is repulsive. This bigoted and narrow-minded mischaracterization of Islam is unacceptable.
We live in a world today that was molded into its present state through a brutal history of colonization and imperialism. The choice you are facing now is whether you will be part of the resistance or the attack. You can never unlearn this information. Now, even being silence means being complicit. Use your privileges. Use your platforms. Use your voice.