By Rehman Malik
UNDOUBTEDLY, it was heartbreaking to see how a white Australian origin terrorist mercilessly killed innocent and harmless Muslims at Christchurch, New Zealand who had gathered to pray before the common God of Christians and Muslims. The terrorist carried out this inhumane act of terrorism after months of planning to advance his political and social agenda i.e. to get rid of “invaders” in the West- and identifying Muslims as “invaders”. These attacks on the house of God has not been the first attack on a religious place of worship as there had been 25 incidents where terrorists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, had attacked the houses of God – Mosques, Churches and Synagogues, killing scores of innocent worshipers.
I watched a few western TV channels and was taken aback to see that Western media has been downplaying the attack by identifying the killer as ‘shooter’ and not ‘terrorist’. The world community must realize that different categorisation of acts of terrorism would further widen the gap between Islam and the West and provides tools to extremists to radicalise by citing the stances taken by the Western world as discriminatory. The politicians, media intellectuals and opinion makers must be careful while talking about any religion due to the complexity and impact that their words can have. We all must work at all levels to advocate for interfaith harmony and brotherhood. Let us call a spade a spade, and this attack an act of terrorism.
The statements by different world leaders have compelled me to wonder if these leaders have different meanings of terrorism – a different code for Muslims to demonising them and different label for non-Muslims. We have seen that an isolated act of terrorism by a “Muslim terrorist” would be used to condemn the whole peaceful Muslim community but this has never been the case with any act carried out by a white person. Needless to say, all such attacks are carried out with a predetermined agenda and are thus equally liable to be condemned in the same fashion.
In order to understand the difference between “shooter” and “terrorist”, I refer to the Oxford dictionary. According to the dictionary, a “shooter” is “a person who uses a gun either regularly or on a particular occasion”. The dictionary defines “terrorist” as “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”. The media has reported that the terrorist Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, had been planning the attacks for months and had posted his manifesto on the internet, a copy of which has reportedly been received in the office of the New Zealand Prime Minister a minute before the attack. The manifesto was filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hatred. He had carried out terrorism to achieve his political goals and thus very rightly falls under the definition of “terrorist” and not merely a shooter. The Western media and some leaders, therefore, need to be revisiting their approach to the incident and the perpetrator.
The irony is that the Muslims are called terrorists but one of the victims of this tragedy, a 71-year-old Afghan refugee Dawood Mohammad who escaped terrorism in his own country couldn’t escape the terrorist attack in New Zealand. He was the first victim who stood at the front, opened arms to welcome his Christian Brother saying “Hello brother” but was gunned down right after.
Let us not turn a blind eye to the rise of far-right, racist and supremacist terrorism in the world. It is as dangerous for world peace as was the Al-Qaeda, Daesh and any other terrorist organisation. The terrorist who appeared in the court today made a gesture associated with white supremacy, indicating his affiliation. It is time that the whole world community must get together to work for interfaith harmony or else civilisations would be at the course of a clash. As defined by the United Nations observers of interfaith harmony, we need to promote the common basis of “Love of God and Love of the Neighbour”. The message invites everyone, excludes no one, and is purely voluntary. I think these volunteered clauses must become compulsory to be adopted as part of enactment by respective member States, just like the law on terrorism and money laundering.
In spite of rapidly increasing white supremacist terrorism around the world, US media and political elites spend a considerable amount of time discussing alleged “Islamic terrorism” alone, which only adds fuel to the already increasing menace of Islamophobia. White supremacist terrorism is far more common than alleged Islamic terrorism in which the Muslims are not even spared by white supremacist children, a disproportionate of whom commit school shootings in the name of racism and white nationalism.
According to our Islamic teaching, a white person doesn’t have superiority over a black person, as we all are one before God. The global models of governance are based on the ideology of equality and nobody has the right to impose the self-created right of privilege of superiority on others.
I foresee that if the ideology of supremacist is not adequately contained, there could be serious clashes between pseudo-Muslim terrorists and White Supremacist terrorists in the future. Western countries and the United Nations must move to avert such a clash on an urgent basis- this conflict could be the basis for the next civil war in the United States.
(The writer is Chairman of think tank “global eye” & former Interior Minister of Pakistan and member of Pak Senate. rmalik1212@gmail .com@GlobalEye_GSA)