Christchurch massacre: a wake up call

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New Zealand was shaken to its core on Friday when at least 49 people were killed by a gunman in two mosques in Christchurch. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the suspect, live streamed the massacre on social media after releasing a white supremacist manifesto that called for removing the “invaders” and “retaking” Europe.

The 27-year old Australian, who the authorities said was not on any intelligence watch list, apparently travelled to New Zealand to carry out the attack. His targets were clearly Muslims, who make up less than 1% of New Zealand’s population. The manifesto and the symbols he carried suggest that he was influenced by far right terrorists and their anti Muslim, anti immigration and anti Semite ideology.

 He came in military fatigues, wore neo Nazi emblems and was listening in his car to a song devoted to Bosnian war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The manifesto lauds Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far right terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011 and released a 1,518 page racist manifesto. He saw President Donald Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.

Right-wing racist terror, which has largely been on the fringes in the post-War world, is emerging as a major political and security threat, especially in white-majority societies. In recent years, mosques in Germany and France have been targeted; in Britain an MP was stabbed to death; and in the U.S. a synagogue was attacked, leaving 11 people dead. In most cases, the attackers were obsessed with immigration and the far-right ideas of Euro-Christian white racial purity, which is fundamentally not different from the ideology of the Nazis.

The language these attackers use resembles that of mainstream anti-immigrant politicians in Western countries, such as Mr. Trump, who wanted to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.; Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, who wants to defend “Christian Europe”; or Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, known for his hard-line views on migrants. Besides, a number of far right parties known for their Islamophobic, white nationalist views are either in power in Europe or are on the rise, be it the Freedom Party of Austria, the AfD of Germany or the National Front of France.

While they and their leaders set the broad contours of anti-immigrant, anti Muslim and anti-Semitic politics as part of their nationalist narrative, neo-Nazis such as Breivik and the Christchurch shooter are killing common people. Societies worldwide should wake up to the growing danger right-wing racist terrorism poses, and not view it as mere isolated, irrational responses to Islamist terror. It has to be fought politically, by driving a counter-narrative to white supremacism, and by using the security apparatus, through allocation of enough resources to tackle all threats of violence.

A Guest Editorial