Christchurch Mosque Rampage

Photo Source: Irish Times

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront

IT WAS A DASTARDLY KILLING SPREE of worshippers shot on a video. In Christchurch, southern New Zealand, an Australian white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant had driven to the Al Noor Mosque in Deans Avenue on 15th March 2019, with a stash of weapons and ammunition, along with petrol canisters. A homicide of Muslim worshippers, including small children, had been on his mind.

After arming himself, with a camera mounted on his helmet, he walked into the mosque, and began shooting indiscriminately. After three minutes of rampage, manslaughter, butchery, whatever one might call it, he exited through the front door, and fired random shots, as cars on the highway travelled past him. After some time, he then re-entered the mosque to check for survivors.

Around fifty people were declared dead in this horrifying episode. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

Brenton Tarrant was arrested minutes after the massacre. After the incident, it became apparent, that the shooter wanted to create the fear of white supremacist ideology in the minds of immigrants living in the region.

Tarrant had written that he hoped that his actions would ‘balkanise’ the United States ‘along political, cultural and, most importantly racial lines.’ This thought would hasten the destruction of the current world order, and enable the creation of white, Christian ideas, while attacking the values of multiculturalism, at the same time.

New Zealand is isolated and unruffled to violence, possibly because of its location. It was probably this reason why the shooter wanted to choose this place for a heinous plot. The attack had invoked major reactions from all quarters of the globe.

After the incident, it seemed that the shooter also wanted attention because he had left a 74-page document, posted on social media, under his name. Beyond his white supremacist views, he claimed to be an environmentalist and a fascist who believed China aligned with his social and political values. He also described contempt for the wealthiest 1 per cent. Regular media reports claimed that he made ‘regular, racist, Facebook posts’.

According to Jarrod Gilbery, a senior lecturer at University of Canterbury: “instead of the traditional bunch of street thugs hanging around on a corner drinking cheap cider and sneering at immigrants, the alt-right gather together from the privacy of their homes.”

Race Relations Commissioner of New Zealand, Paul Hunt, also ascertained that in some quarters of New Zealand society, there was Islamophobia and a cause towards appealing to the government to bring back some form of ‘hate laws’.

Tarrant grew up in a working-class Australian family, and described himself as a poor student. He was believed to have worked briefly, and made some money through Bitconnect, a crypto currency like Bitcoin. For quite some time, he was a licensed gun owner of five weapons.

In the past four years, Tarrant had spent a little time in Australia, and just had minor traffic offences on his record. He was a personal trainer at Big River Gym, in northern New South Wales, and believed to have inherited his interest in physical fitness from his father. Gym manager Tracey Gray commented: 'he worked in our program that offered free training to kids in the community, and he was very passionate about that.' Ms Gray said Tarrant didn't come across as some individual who had an interest in firearms.

His manifesto also included protracted themes of hatred between people of European descent and Muslims, often framing it in terms of the Crusades. He had been motivated towards violence, after an episode occurred in 2017, while he was touring through western Europe, when a Muslim Uzbek man drove a truck into a crowd of people in Stockholm, killing five people.

In some cities of France, the scene of immigrants, in the cities and towns he visited, appalled him. He called for the removal of minarets at Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Museum and also claimed to have donated to far-right white nationalist groups such as identitarian movement, originated from France, but he was not an active member of any organisation. However, he admitted having contacts with an immigration group called the Reborn Knights Templar, and it is believed by some that he had got approval from Anders Breivik, himself, for the attack, a claim that has not been verified yet, according to Associated Press. Anders Breivek is a right-wing extremist, who killed 77 people in Oslo, at a nearby island in 2011. But, Breivik's lawyer Oeystein Storrvik told Norway’s VG newspaper, that his client, who is in prison, has very ‘limited contacts with the surrounding world’, so it seems very unlikely that Breivik had any contact, with the Australian born shooter. Nevertheless, Breivik was someone who Tarrant admired.

In his puerile assertions, Tarrant also wanted to attack the participants at a Worker’s Youth League Summer Camp, who he libeled as ‘cultural Marxists’.

Many people might not be surprised that at the upper echelons of power, especially in American politics, a similar watered down version to demonise leftist intellectuals, journalists, academia has been happening, especially since Trump branded them as ‘enemies of the people.’

According to inputs from the Associated Press, Brenton Tarrant used many hate symbols associated with the Nazis and white supremacy. The number 14, seen on his rifle, was possibly a reference to a white supremacist slogan, attributed in part to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kemph, according to Poverty Law Centre. He also used the symbol of Schwarze Sonne, or ‘black sun’, which has become synonymous with far-right groups. In fact, his manifesto has been compared with 1893 text of white supremacists around the world titled ‘National Life and Character: A Forecast,’ a text, which was acknowledged by ‘White Australia’ policymakers, including Keith Murdoch (father of Rupert Murdoch), who called for racial unity, and former U.S. President Theordore Roosevelt. In other racist texts such as ‘The Rising Tide of Colour Against White World Supremacy’, a sacred union was called for, that amalgamated together Australians, Africans, Californians and Canadians. It made thinkers such as W.E.B Du Bois believe that the biggest problem of the 20th century would come from the colour line – the relation of darker coloured men to the lighter coloured men.

In a Washington Post Oped, Khaled Diab wrote: “if a terrorist were to claim that their attack was intended to add momentum to the pendulum swings of history, further destabilising and polarising Western society, you might be excused in thinking the perpetrator was an Islamic extremist. But, these are the words of a white supremacist and a crusader.” In fact, Diab compared his nihilistic perceptions, to jihadis, as they claim to polarise an already divided world - while Islamists vilify secularists as fakes, and often as traitors, at worst, white supremacists, on the other hand, disparage Islamists as hate spreading pseudo zealots.

Tarrant was also convinced that a society of rampant nihilism, consumerism, and individualism was destroying the Western world. He spoke of victimhood, oppression from elites, much like his jihadist counterparts, despite living in a modern society, founded by European settlers. Although, not sure of his Christian beliefs, his manifesto spoke of Christian imagery, as he justified his crime on religious terms, to many extents, by even quoting Pope Urban II, who initiated the First Crusade.

Reasoned continual immigration has mainly exerted an inferiority complex on white supremacists, mainly because of anti-colonial voices, coming from oppressed people, who have attacked their agenda. Thus, this claim of foreign occupation and oppression are common recurring themes in white nationalist cabals. That’s why, it is not uncommon to see restricted immigration policies, even for displaced refugees, in places such as Australia and United States, where current politicians are seemingly born out of these ultra conservative and radical rightist views. In fact, these ideas are evident in their intellectual arena.

According to Indian writer, Pankaj Mishra: ‘Trump himself acknowledged as much in January 2017, eight days into his presidency, when he confessed his admiration for Australia’s brutal measure of detaining refugees on remote islands. He had called it a good idea, and called for similar measures in the United States.’

This inferiority complex had even let British educated Australian academic Charles Henry Pearson once comment that ‘white men were in danger of being elbowed and hustled and perhaps, and even trust aside, by black and yellow races.’

After the incident, more than 10.8 million NZD have been received so far, to help families of the 50 people killed in mosque shootings. A support fund on New Zealand site had received more than 91,000 donors, while, a global crowdfunding platform focused on Muslim lives, netted around 2,546,126 NZD from over 40,000 donations.

New Zealand has been holding memorials ever since the massacre happened. At Hagley Park, a crowd of 40,000 people expressed solidarity. Many women were seen wearing hijabs as a sign of solidarity, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She has been hailed for her stances, including banning automatic weapons in the country.

The prime minister has also called for paying for any repatriation charges, if any associated family members of victims, wanted to move away from New Zealand. She said that a Royal Commission, the most powerful probe in New Zealand’s history, was needed to find out how a single gunman was able to kill 50 people in a rampage.

Despite the ardent praise Ardern received, post mosque rampage, her critics were not shy enough to take on her political views. Despite Ardern trying to prove that New Zealand is a land of peace, tranquility, the fact remains that the country too, is built on a horrific past, that includes the genocide of the Maoris, just like the aborigines in Australia, and the native Americans and African Americans in the US.

In New Zealand, the settlers, from generation after generation, used confiscated land from Maoris. Her government, in fact, is currently keeping an alliance with New Zealand First, a protectionist, populist party, favouring anti-immigration.

In case of Australia, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, had once apologised to the people of Australia, for the massacre of aborigines, but no such official apology has come from any Kiwi politician, lately. In fact, there is little reconciliation between a Pakeha (white New Zealander) and a Maori in her country.

According to Oped writer, Sunil Sharan: 'reaching out to the Maoris damages her political career. Reaching out to the Muslim ummah, gives her a worldwide platform, to project her image.'

Numerous calls have gone out for her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A Nobel for her will obfuscate what the ancestors of the current Pakehas did to the Maoris.


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