We have gone down the rabbit hole now. We are peering into the worst humanity can sink to. Hatred is now a profitable industry if you claim you are being silenced. You can supposedly unlearn bigotry, but we now seem to be in a world too lost in hate.
I can’t explain the disorientating feeling of waking up to the news of a seemingly far-right terrorist mowing down Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand. They say so far nearly fifty are dead, and so many more are injured. Civilians near the incident tried to help; a woman thought it was fireworks until she realised something was horribly wrong. She broke down in tears, the grief clear on her face.
The stories are harrowing; worshippers lying on the floor, too afraid to move. The terrorist filming his attacks and uploading it to social media. The instant circulation of his violent and hateful act. If hatred is an industry, social media is unfortunately the medium it often runs on. I found myself breaking down, in the shower, on the train and at work. The ideology that says Muslims are a threat, that Muslims are taking over, orbits around an inhuman level of hate.
If you have ever been unfortunate enough to trawl through the Rebel Media website, to read a piece by Douglas Murray, to watch Tommy Robinson’s video or see a Fox News segment, you will see how this hate is normalised. Most of us are decent and empathetic enough to not allow prejudice to coalesce because of the scaremongering pushed by certain people.
But this was a terrorist inspired by it. He referenced Anders Breivik. His manifesto was a clear indicator of the hatred fermented inside him by the far-right narratives. They are not confined to one country but everywhere, fuelled by the borderless platform of the online world. The far-right are the same wherever you go. People will focus on this atrocity but ignore the ideology of hate and the campaign of myths and sensationalist stories behind it that creates a climate where fear and hatred of Muslims is rife.
The theories of ‘white genocide’ and a ‘Muslim takeover’ are no laughing matters, however much we ridicule the idiots who swallow them up. There are consequences to letting myths about one group of people go unchecked and unchallenged. Society has always feared the foreigner. And often, the pushback against the hate has been too slow. This isn’t just an attack on Muslims but on all communities, on New Zealand. Sometimes when attacks against religious groups happen, we don’t see it as attacks against the nation, but they are. They’re against the national values that the far-right want to tear down. If you are a Muslim, Jew, black Christian, anyone who isn’t a white Christian, you are hated by the far-right.
If you are a Muslim in the West, you live in a reality where gratitude for the relative material security and liberal rights is set against the fear and discomfort that you will always be seen as the fifth column by some. Muslim women often carry this burden worse, due to being more easily visibly identifiable as Muslim. It wears you down psychologically if you are expecting abuse on public transports or bad treatment at a workplace because of your faith. You’re afraid to go out, and more so for your loved ones to go out. I am worried always for my mother, who wears a scarf and would be extremely vulnerable. I am terrified for my dad, who lives in a neighbourhood with not many Muslims. I don’t want them to go out, to not risk themselves. I can’t imagine how Muslims in New Zealand are feeling right now. The hurt. The heartbreak. The fear.
Every time there is an event of high political magnitude, Muslims are left braced for a spike in hate crime. That is the state of constant tension many live in. People will say that you cannot cave in to the terrorists or the racists, that giving in to the fear created by hate is wrong; New Zealand’s police have asked Muslims to stay indoors and not go to mosque. Most will defy this and continue going. Faith is an irrevocable essence of someone’s sense of who they are. Our relationship to God cannot be damaged by a terrorist determined to remove us.
However I find the total erasure of these experiences grim, saddening, angering and devastating. Some focus on the term ‘Islamophobia’ as a shutdown on debates on Islam. They refuse to investigate the hatred luring behind it. If you’re Douglas Murray or Melanie Phillips, you simply dismiss it outright. There is no effort to listen to the voices pleading for people to listen to them.
Worshippers dead. Survivors lying on the floor terrified to move. Children being shot at. Families now ripped apart. Where is this hate taking us? And when will it stop?