Dr Salman Al-Azami, Senior Lecturer in English Language, comments on the reaction of the New Zealand community to the terror attack in Christchurch.
The reaction to the massacre in Christchurch on 15th March has given a renewed hope amidst the pain and sufferings of the victims that humanity hasn’t disappeared, and that love has conquered hatred in the most demonstrable way.
The world witnessed in horror how a small city of a peaceful nation like New Zealand was turned into a place of absolute pandemonium when a white supremacist entered two Mosques and indiscriminately killed men, women and children while live-streaming his atrocity on social media. How much hatred a human being can bear in their heart that they can carry out murder with such brutality is difficult to comprehend. However, as much as I was shocked and saddened at this tragic event, unfortunately, I was not surprised at all.
The rise of far-right rhetoric in politics and in the media in the Western world and the achievements of right-wing populists in Europe and the United States in mainstream politics cannot be isolated from this incident. Islamophobia has become an accepted form of racism in recent times and Muslims have been subjected to hate crimes all over Europe and North America. Terrorism committed by some perverts who call themselves Muslims has provided free license to some politicians and a section of the media to vilify Muslims in every opportunity they get often leading to serious consequences to innocent Muslims in the West who are just getting on with their lives. They propagate that Muslims want to kill non-Muslims, hardly realising or acknowledging that 90% of the victims of terrorist acts committed by Muslims are Muslims themselves. The lives that perished in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen etc. are often forgotten making one wonder whether some lives are more important than others.
Islamophobic incidents in the Western world have increased manifold in recent times but has remained largely unnoticed among politicians and the media. The Christchurch shooting, albeit for a few days, brought Islamophobia and the rise of far-right extremism at the centre of political and media attention. However, within a few days, the issue has gone below the radar once again within the British political and media discourse with Brexit taking over almost everything. The ruling Conservative Party is consistently denying that they have a problem of Islamophobia in the party despite overwhelming evidence. President Trump, on the other hand, is refusing that far-right extremism is a problem.
However, the reaction to this incident in New Zealand has led me to believe that there is still some humanity left in this world. With their Prime Minister Jecinda Ardern leading from the front with empathy, support, and acting immediately to control the gun laws, New Zealanders from all walks of life have come out in numbers to stay united and support the community. Slogans like ‘they are us’ or ‘we are one’ has turned the horrors of the Muslim community into strength and a sense of fellowship that showed the whole world how unity and love can heal wounds and bring communities together. Similar supports have been shown by many communities around the world, but the example set by the leaders, the communities, and the media in New Zealand has been unprecedented and exemplary.
At the same time, it is important to remember how the Muslim community in New Zealand and around the world have reacted to this incident. Instead of being revengeful, the reaction so far has been reflective, and Muslims have opened their doors for non-Muslims who have become more engaged with the Muslim community after the incident. The human stories that are coming out from the victims and their families have been heart-breaking on one hand, and inspiring on the other. One victim’s husband even went to the extent of forgiving the killer saying that he wanted to hug the killer and show love.
This is the greatest story that has emerged from this tragic incident. The killer, and those who hold similar hatred towards Muslims, thought they would win by dividing communities. That mission has spectacularly failed in this case. He has rather brought communities closer to each other. He has made people love each other. He has enabled non-Muslims to come close to the Muslim community and understand what a normal Muslim is like, which otherwise they wouldn’t have known. His hatred has proved that love is the only solution to humanity in these troubled times. Love definitely has conquered hate and may this love spread all over the world.