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The Christchurch Massacre (Editorial April 2019)

The Christchurch Massacre (Editorial April 2019)

Islamophobia is real, deadly and spreading

“The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns yourself more than them.”— Chinese Proverb

The world today is reeling under the claws of terrorism. This menace has once again taken a heavy toll in the form of lives of nearly fifty innocent Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand. These ghastly attacks were, in no way, the result of some random mental health problem – as Western media often professes religiously – they were calculated, cold-blooded and clinical. They, in fact, reflected the decades-long policies of othering and dehumanizing the Muslims. The perpetrator in this act of terrorism was not a Muslim, but a self-identified Australian white supremacist (actually an Islamophobic fascist) Brenton Tarrant who regarded Islam and the Muslims as a combined category of a movement and its people who are not merely a blot on the landscape, but who deserve to be depopulated.

But, it was so encouraging that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ms Jacinda Ardern, not only stood by the Muslims – she visited the bereaved families, donned hijab and ordered to telecast the Azaan (Islamic call for prayer) on national media – but also called on the world leaders, who are known for their anti-Muslim penchant to show solidarity with the victims. Her all-out support to Muslims and a bold stance against the Muslim–haters by the Kiwi premier in the wake of the Christchurch bloodbath has once again brought to the fore the need of addressing the core issues behind what the West calls ‘terrorism’.

There is no blinking at the fact that for all the violence and death and destruction that hit the world, the Western media as well as the far-right populist leaders start blaming Muslims and Islam. This wrong construal of Islam – the religion of peace, tolerance, forbearance and harmony – as an ideology that supports terrorism is so deeply entrenched in their minds that they impose travel bans, close the borders of their countries to Muslims and see them as occupiers or intruders. Dogmatist politicians like Australian senator Fraser Anning denounce the immigration policies that allow Muslims to get into their countries. Anning’s bigotry and Islamophobia was more than evident from what he said in his statement after the Christchurch attack. He said, “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. Let us be clear, while Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators. World-wide, Muslims are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale.”

This sort of mentality adds fuel to the already raging fire of Islamophobia. And, to counter this, we should take a lead from PM Ardern. During a telephonic conversation, when US President Donald Trump asked Ms Ardern if the United States could provide any support or help, she said that the best help he could provide “would be sympathy and love for Muslim communities.” In addition, following the massacre, she rightfully warned that the fight against racism was a global one that should know no national boundaries. Similar should be the fight to eliminate Islamophobia and move towards an era where peace and only peace should reign supreme.

On their part, Muslim countries should also come out of their deep slumber now. Despite the fact that they have nearly one-third of the world’s population, disunity and internal rifts among them have resulted in Muslims facing misery and dejection in almost all parts of the globe – Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir, Libya, Myanmar, Palestine and Syria narrate the sad story of indifference and apathy on the part of the leaders of the Muslim world. Traditionally, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has offered only lip service to problems and crises faced by the Muslim world, but it will have to resurrect itself.

Pakistan, being the only Islamic nuclear power, can play a leading role in this regard. And, realizing this fact Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has proposed the formation of a strategic alliance among Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey with the principal objective to combat the ever-growing Islamophobia. Turkey and Malaysia are two economic powers in the Muslim world and the former is also increasingly assuming an assertive role when it comes to the Muslims around the world. It is also encouraging that the OIC has held an Emergency Meeting of its Executive Committee wherein it has rightly urged the UN Secretary General to convene a special session of the UN General Assembly to declare Islamophobia as a form of racism and to assign a special rapporteur for monitoring and combating the menace in the western countries.

The West too needs to stop othering the Muslims and demonizing Islam because terrorism is a social evil that can be rooted out only through collective efforts. An Australian news anchor Waleed Aly has aptly depicted what the world pressingly needs to understand today when, on his TV show, he said: “[T]errorism doesn’t choose its victims selectively … everything we say to try and tear people apart, demonize particular groups, set them against each other — that all has consequences, even if we’re not the ones with our fingers on the trigger.”

In fine, a full stop against demonizing the Muslims and holding them – and also their religion – responsible for anything bad that happens to the world, especially the West, is what we need to put now. The perilous state of world peace calls for inter-faith harmony and inter-religion dialogue so as to save millions and millions of people from the jaws of terrorism and death.

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