Perceived to be the “perfect country”, away from the terror contentions that has engulfed the rest of planet, New Zealand woke up on Friday with the news of 49 people shot dead in attacks at two mosques in Christchurch. More than being the most horrific terror attack that the country has ever seen, the Christchurch attack gives out a much more profound message to the world – a message of urgency to confront the white supremacy and the Islamophobia that has led to a massacre that has changed New Zealand, forever.
History is evident that New Zealand has remained removed (certainly geographically, and) from the idea of violence, terror and racism – even in the ages of “Islamophobia” that has engulfed the rest of world. It has remained a distant island of multicultural and welcoming people – away from the toxic global norms of society with nationalities, races and classes.
For a country where the greatest threatening headline of the week was “an outbreak of measles”, and a country that is seen as generally safe, stable, mostly classless and aloof of the idea of terrorism – 49 innocent people being ruthlessly shot down while they were praying at mosques, and their deaths being live streamed on Facebook – might come out as “inconceivable”.
But the Christchurch shooting that happened on Friday changed the perception of what we, as a human society have become. Beyond the unending sorrow, it took 49 lives for us to see how far the divide in our societies have gone, and how not untouched any corner of the world is – from the horrors of terror. And this is the time to realise that the shooting on a group of Muslim devotees in two mosques of Christchurch must not be swept under the carpet by tagging it to be an act by an isolated actor or a disturbed individual, or what we media are calling it – “a white shooter” or a “madman”. And if we do, that would be a mistake.
For the manifesto of what Brenton Tarrant did, sheds light on the general thought of how the people of colour and especially Muslims are perceived as invaders, arrived in their lands with an intent to replace the whites in the West. It would be wrong to shrug off the extent of radical discourse and extremist stigma that has rationalised him to conduct such an act.
After all, how can a country where the terror level was zero, or at least perceived to be so – went to an unequivocal high within just 17 minutes? How can a country where Islamophobia was not mainstream, nor was racism be a ground for a brutally radical attack on a selected community – in the most horrific way? Perhaps, the view of seeing browns and Muslims as subhumans, and threats was omnipresent among large proportions of the white society – maybe not at the explicitly violent extent, but it really was.
Nobody is born with the ideas of white supremacy, nor is anybody born with the ideas of extremism. It is but, just what we are taught via bigoted discourses that has touched down to such a hegemonic status of ourselves. It is the perpetrated politics, and the press that has injected the implicit divide among us. A quantitative analysis by a journalist peer showed that Muslims receive 357% more news attention than acts of terrorism committed by non-Muslims. It is all of these highly negative and stereotypical media coverage, political and social media campaigns that has made us what we are.
The message that we must interpret from the Christchurch attack is that it is time to make a stand and give a clear notice that hatred has no place in our societies. It is time to cut out the rancour towards any other human. It is time to give succour to those who seek to whip up hatred among us – the human society, regardless of their race, religion or colour. It is, but, the highest time to stand up for the basic right to live. For very many have died and history will judge us, if we don’t stop this annihilation.