Opinion: On the Christchurch Terror Attack

Yesterday, forty nine people were gunned down as they gathered for Friday prayers in Al Nour mosque and Linwood mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. At Al Nour, the shooter livestreamed himself walking into the place of worship and opening fire. He claimed that the attack was “an act of revenge” and in the “name of diversity.” He scrawled references to ancient battles and recent attacks against Muslims on his murder weapon. He said he’ll plead “not guilty” if he survived and made it to court. He is a terrorist.

Over the past twenty years, over one billion Muslims have been alienated as “the other,” as the enemy. The War on Terror granted groups and individuals, especially white supremacist groups, who held a deep hatred of “the other” legitimacy to target and intimidate those who didn’t meet their own racial, cultural or religious characteristics. This toxic rhetoric then bled into targeting other religions and identities. The 2015 Charleston church shooter used “an impending race war” to legitimize his killing of nine black worshippers. In 2011, sixty nine Norwegian youths were killed by a far-right terrorist who blamed Islam and feminism for a European “cultural suicide.” Over a dozen people were killed in the 2012 Wisconsin Sikh temple attack and 2018 Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue attack where the victims were targeted solely because of their religious identity.

The rise of Donald Trump and the far-right in Europe have only made things worse. They have used the racist, xenophobic rhetoric employed during the War on Terror to gain votes and justify their discriminatory policies, whether it be the U.S. Muslim travel ban or the growingly mainstream hijab ban in Europe.

We begged them to stop spewing hate. We told them it would lead to more violence. They dismissed us as trying to be ‘politically correct’ and told us to uphold ‘the freedom of speech.’ Now, forty nine people have been killed, twenty have been injured and an entire nation is in mourning.

Because of this rhetoric, every time there’s an attack anywhere in the world, whether it be in the West or the Middle East, I and over a billion Muslims pray that it wasn’t perpetrated by someone who claims to ‘represent’ us.

Any terrorist attack claimed by a jihadist group, which are a small, radical minority of Muslims, has been entirely blamed on Islam. Despite pan-Islamic condemnation of jihadism, the movement has come to define global perceptions of Islam. Its holy text has been enthusiastically misreported as the ‘word of terror.’ Its followers have been branded ‘worshippers of terror.’ In truth, they have bared the brunt of terror. Our families have been killed by terror. We have lost our homes to terror. We have constantly defended ourselves from being associated with terror. We live in constant terror.

Five years ago to the month, my cousin, along with ten others, was killed in a terrorist attack on a court in Islamabad, Pakistan. The perpetrators claimed to have done it in the name of Islam. After hearing the news, my family didn’t know what to make of it. For hours, we weren’t sure what was happening. We didn’t know what to do. And slowly, as the night went on, as my aunt wept the news to my mother over the phone, we realized there was nothing we could do. I went numb. The tears of my family, country and my own kept me up that night, and many nights after. A young lawyer, who strove to empower everyone around her, was killed for the sake of terror. Forty nine people in Christchurch were killed for nothing but the sake of terror.

Terror has no race or religion. No religion encourages the killing of innocents, the destruction of lives, or the desecration of humanity. No race is inherently more or less violent than the other. Ideology fuels terrorism. Terrorist groups and individuals have manifested their xenophobic, racist and hateful views into acts of violence in the name of their own identity or religion, when in reality, they are appropriating them. Terrorism, whether it be disguised as a “race-war”, a “crusade” or a “jihad,” is the continuation of hateful politics by other means. It is the continuation of racism by other means. It is the continuation of evil by definition.

This article is dedicated to the victims of the Christchurch attack, their families and everyone who has ever been affected by global terrorism. Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return (this phrase is uttered by Muslims in respect of those who have passed away)

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the official position of The McGill International Review or IRSAM.inc