This past Friday, a 28 years old Australian-born white supremacist mowed down 50 Muslim worshippers, including women and children at two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch during an afternoon Friday congregational prayer. He was arrested and charged with murder.
The shooter used social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instragam to disseminate his evil acts. He took the responsibility of the attack in a manifesto posted under his name on Facebook live feed during the time of the attack. The manifesto is filled with references “white genocide”, a neo-Nazi conspiracy propaganda that white people are being replaced by invading Muslims. It also mentions that he had inspired by Anders Breivik’s 2011 Norway attack and 2015 Roof Dylan’s shooting of a Black church in South Carolina that killed nine people.
The white Supremacists have repeatedly exploited the dark rooms in the social media to recruit followers, share information and formulate plots. For instance, last year, a White Supremacist who attacked Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing 11 and wounding six, was frequent user of Gab, a social media platform adored by right wing fanatics.
New Zealand is a peaceful and tolerant nation for the immigrants. While speaking about the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” adding two other people were also being held. “ These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand, and in fact have no place in the world.”
But when the media asked President Trump about at the rise of the white Supremacists, he downplayed the growing threat of the white nationalism. He added, “I think it’s small groups that have very, very serious problems, I guess”.
In post 9/11, Muslim hysteria in America and Europe has flourished. But Trump’s 2016 campaign, which was marred with religious bigotry and xenophobic rhetoric, politically, made Islamphobia a mantra of his campaign: He openly advocates for a “total Muslim ban” into the United States, and suggested that during 9/11 terrorists attack Muslims were cheering for the terrorists in a town in New Jersey. He even accused former president Obama as closet Muslim.
I am not blaming Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric somehow responsible for the mass killings in Christchurch.
But those with a megaphone, including President Trump, must tone down their toxic rhetoric against religious minorities and immigrants because words they use matter. Today’s angry political climate, the white supremacist extremists who used to be a fringe elements now have found a base to propagate and unleash their hatred and deadly violence, and powerful leader who emboldened them.
Early Friday morning, I have received CNN’s breaking news from Christchurch mass shooting on my iphone. I was in a shock and angry about the unfolding tragedy. During my lunch break, I always pray Friday prayer at Al-noor mosque in Hilliard, but this Friday was not a normal one. I was hesitant showing up for the Friday prayer because of the horrific incident at Christchurch. Then I attended the Friday prayer because I realized the main agenda of the perpetrator intended was to create a fear through violence in which Muslim communities not to pray at the mosques.
During the Friday prayer the Imam called for the congregants to be patient and pray for the Christchurch massacre victims, survivors and their families during their grieving and mourning period.
And to grieve the losses of the New Zealand Muslim communities, President Trump should show empathy for the families of the victims in the wake of Christchurch massacre. He should also ambiguously denounce the white supremacists and disavow them in the strongest terms because bigotry—whether religious or racial is evil and has no place in America.
Finally, it is time for Americans of all races, creed and background to put aside our political differences to unite as one nation and demand from our elected leaders the decency to restore public discourse and to confront the rising threat of the White Supremacist, which is not only real but a growing threat. We can’t afford for another copycat of Christchurch massacre to take place in the places of worship here in the United States—a nation founded on religious freedom.
Founder and Editor
This piece was orginally pyblished in Columbus Disptach