Christchurch Should Teach Us All The Importance Of Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With Our Neighbours

What happened in New Zealand may not have directly impacted non-Muslims, but the rise of white supremacist ideology will have drastic implications for anyone who isn’t white and male.
Edgar Su / Reuters

Following the recent terror attack against Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, the momentum of the white supremacist movement has been brought back into the forefront of how we view extremism and what can be done to combat it. While certain media outlets have tried to portray this attack as an isolated incident, the reality is, it is the result of a much larger movement, in which those in favour are slowly gaining confidence and a certain level of encouragement to act on their views.

On 15 March, 51 Muslims were killed while attending Friday prayers. A 28-year-old Australian man, who is a self-proclaimed white supremacist and supporter of Donald Trump, has been arrested and charged with murder. In a 74-page manifesto the alleged shooter published online, he cited other white supremacists and mass murderers as inspiration, and described himself as a “racist” and “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist”. While he stated that he had no issue with Muslims in their “homelands”, his issue is with them being “invaders” in the West, and he expressed even more hatred for white Muslim converts, who he described were “traitors” to their kind.

As a white Muslim convert myself, I know the feeling of being titled a “traitor” all too well. I have been labeled as one countless times online, as well as felt the judgements from within my own family. While half of my family is rather accepting and acclimated to the change, the other side could only be described as “soft-racists” or “white supremacist sympathisers”, at the least, and avid Trump supporters. So it is admittedly strange seeing anti-Muslim propaganda from my own friends and family on my Facebook, while being a follower of the Islamic faith myself. However, I do have the added advantage of viewing ‘both sides’, and while I may not be able to bring myself to empathise with racism or white supremacy – I can understand those who live in apathy.

With so much going on in the world, it can be difficult to give our already limited attention to things that seemingly don’t ‘affect’ us. For example, as an American living in London, I may not necessarily be as concerned with the elections in Germany as I would be with the 2020 US Presidential elections or Brexit. However, we run the risk of isolating ourselves from support from other communities when we experience traumatic events, if we don’t ally ourselves with others’ causes and strife. When the attack in New Zealand occurred, I was astonished at the number of non-Muslim friends, family and colleagues of mine that did not seem to even be aware that it took place. People who were previously very vocal regarding terror attacks committed by “Muslims”, suddenly did not have anything to say. While it is easier for us to disconnect from events that happen to those we identify as ‘others’, I expected the fact that it happened in a Western country would have drawn more attention and acknowledgement from fellow communities.

On the ground in New Zealand, the support was absolutely present and admirable. Multiple groups of individuals performed ceremonial haka in honour of the victims, and members of the community visited their local mosques to ‘guard’ the worshippers while they prayed. Gestures of solidarity were also seen worldwide, with people bringing flowers to their local mosques, and giving their condolences to the Muslim community.

While this particular tragedy may not have directly impacted individuals who aren’t Muslim, the rise of white supremacist ideology does, and will have drastic implications for anyone that isn’t white and for the most part, who isn’t male. Therefore; it is all of our responsibilities to support our diverse communities of ethnicity and religion, in order to combat this very dangerous mentality. When speaking of the attack in New Zealand, mayor of South Bend in Indiana Pete Buttigieg, stated that the attack was “an attack on us all” and tweeted “And yet again, the obvious bears repeating: white nationalism kills”.

While white nationalist mentality has existed for a long time, the issue at hand is that our current political climate is one that does not discourage this ideology, and in fact only fuels and empowers those who ascribe to it. President Donald Trump speaking of the attack made no mention of Muslims, terrorism, hate or white supremacy, rather he tweeted his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to those affected. Shortly after the attack during an interview in the oval office, Trump stated that he did not feel the growing danger of white supremacy was a problem, asserting that it’s only a “small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.”

The fact of the matter is, we are a diverse world full of varied cultures and religions, and in order to combat this growing notion of it being an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ dynamic, we all need to be allies of one another. The stronger we band together as smaller communities forming one large community, the weaker the white supremacist movement becomes. That means learning about and understanding one another, and coming together to support communities in need, or those affected by terrorism, racism, and brutality. As a Muslim, if I hope individuals from different backgrounds will stand up for my right to practice my faith and exist safely, I have to also extend my support to my black brothers and sisters, the Jewish community, the Sikh community, etc. I have hope that through unity and understanding, we can push back against the dangerous rhetoric fuelled by the media, and prevent attacks like this from happening to anyone in the future.