The growing threat from white supremacist terrorism

By Ameeen Izzadeen
As New Zealand’s Muslims offer their first Friday prayers today after last Friday’s massacre in Christchurch, the sad reality is that racism is very much alive today. It was only yesterday that the world observed International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the fact that such a day exists is a damning indictment on humanity. Fascist racists are among us. Their existence is proof that human beings as a whole have still not reached the peak of civilization. The savagery is still with us. Confirming its existence is the Christchurch carnage. That was not the beginning. It was seen in slavery, colonization, in the South African apartheid, the continuing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands, attacks on churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. The barbarism is also seen in the increasing popularity of the white nationalism or supremacist political ideology in the West.
Guilty, yes, we are. Last Friday’s terror attack happened because our education systems have failed to inculcate universal fraternity. It failed to teach the 28-year-old terrorist that all human beings are equal. Our value systems have been denigrated by the cancer of ‘us versus them’ – us superior, them inferior. As a result of this warped value system, we rush to defend attacks on racial and religious communities as freedom of expression.
For instance, Dante’s Divine Comedy depicts the Muslim prophet and Islam’s fourth Caliph as undergoing punishment in hell. Paintings based on the poem portray the prophet as a man split in half, with his entrails hanging out. Such despicable works promoting hatred are defended as freedom of expression. Even today insulting Islam and its prophet draws little condemnation in the so-called enlightened West. Despite worldwide protests in 2012, YouTube still defends the hosting of a movie depicting the Prophet Muhammad in the worst possible manner that a wicked and slanderous mind could imagine. YouTube claims that the movie falls within its guidelines.
Then, there was a video game named ‘Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide’. The aim of the popular game marketed in 2008 — against the backdrop of 9/11 — was to kill all the Muslims who appear on the screen with an arsenal of the most destructive weapons. The winner was hailed as the American hero. Protests failed to take the game off the shelf, as, in the name of entertainment, the game promoted racism and poisoned young minds. Then there is a continuous supply of Hollywood movies and tele-series, with the Islamophobic message that Muslims are bad and, therefore, killing them is not only fair but must be done to cleanse society. All in the name of freedom of expression.
Such tolerance of hate expressions makes white supremacist terrorists into believing that there is wider acceptance in societies they grow up for racial attacks on Muslims. The terrorist who carried out the carnage last Friday believed that he was doing it on behalf of an international network of Islamophobe Fascists, with whom he had openly collaborated for years. His 74-page manifesto which he uploaded on social media is a ‘Mein Kampf’ written for like-minded Fascists. Investigations showed that he had contacts with the so-called Knight Templars, a self-style supremacist group linked to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, whose victims were largely university students who had a liberal and progressive outlook towards accommodating the ‘other’.
Just as the Christchurch terrorist was prompted to violence by the white supremacists, the Islamic terrorists are motivated by war-mongering preachers while extremists in this country, India, Myanmar, Israel, the US and elsewhere are incited by racist rabble-rousers into committing violence against the ‘other”.
It is in this context that yesterday’s UN day theme assumes significance. The theme ‘Mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies’ was adopted following concerns about the worldwide rise of extreme political ideology, euphemistically called populism.
Today, in Europe and the US, anti-immigrant politicians’ views are not far from those espoused by the Christchurch terrorist. Nuke Mecca is a popular refrain of some of these extremists. In Australia, of which the Christchurch killer is a citizen, politician publicly expressing Islamophobic ideas or demonizing Muslims is not unusual. Australia’s One-Nation Party leader Pauline Hanson told Parliament that her country was in danger of being swamped by Muslims.
In New Zealand, progressive Prime Minister Jacinda Ardener, who won worldwide accolades for her humanistic handling of the post-carnage crisis, is unfortunately tainted by her coalition with the New Zealand First Party, which has called for measures to stop migrants from Asia and the Middle East.
American historian, writer, and commentator Daniel Pipes is an open Islamophobe. He recommends increased profiling of American Muslims and Arabs to cope with the threat of “militant” Islam. He had repeated the false claim that then President Barack Obama was a former Muslim who “practiced Islam.” Piples campaigned against the construction of an Islamic centre near the ground zero in New York, warning that the proposed centre would spread Islamist jihadi ideology.
President Donald Trump, who is as anti-immigrant as Pipes, courted controversy in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks for saying that ‘white nationalism is good’ and that ‘they are not a growing threat’. Critics say his statements or tweets avoided any condemnation of the white supremacist ideology of the terrorist; neither did he express explicit sympathy with the grieving relatives of the victims. Though a White House spokesman later said the president was not a white supremacist, what is found between the lines in his statement only encourages more white supremacists to carry out heinous crimes.
In the US, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish non-profit group campaigning against racism, notes that white supremacist attacks have seen an alarming rise in the past two years during the Trump Presidency. Some of the high profile incidents were the attack on the Unite the Right march at Charlottesville in Virginia, in August 2017 and last year’s synagogue attack that claimed the lives of 11 people in Pittsburgh.
The League said it found white supremacist murders in the US “more than doubled in 2017.
“This attack (in New Zealand) underscores a trend that ADL has been tracking: that modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalised like never before,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
The League’s statistics and statement are a serious indictment on the Trump’s presidency. No wonder the Christchurch killer had described Trump, as “a symbol of renewed white identity.”
New Zealand’s Premier Ardener this week called for international effort to confront extremism in all its forms. The need of the hour, in keeping with the UN’s anti-racial discrimination day theme, is the convening of an international conference to discuss and adopt measures to stop Christchurch-like massacres.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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