The Christchurch terror attack affects Muslims everywhere

Armed police patrol outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand. (Mark Baker, AP)
Armed police patrol outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand. (Mark Baker, AP)

The Christchurch shooting may be viewed as an isolated incident in New Zealand, but it is surely part of a driving force of Islamophobia on a global scale, writes Naseema Barday.

On Friday, a video of 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant shooting and killing people in two masjids in Christchurch, New Zealand went viral.

Many people shared and reposted the video to various social media platforms, and it was making its rounds on WhatsApp as well.

I was still half asleep on Friday morning when I opened the video, and the contents as well as the sound of it scared me.

I was completely shaken up.

Now, a lot of Muslims on social media are urging others not to share and distribute the video because it is what he wants. He – Tarrant – wanted his video to go viral. He wanted everyone to see what he did. And what he was capable of. All in the name of cleansing New Zealand of non-white immigrants.

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But I am not surprised.

Not because he shot and killed many Muslims in their places of worship, but rather, I am not surprised in how the media initially portrayed this terrorist; this killer.

His victims were clearly and selectively chosen – Muslims pray at masjids at certain times each day. The Friday prayer is no different. Tarrant did his research. He knew where they would be. The victims were guaranteed to be in the masjids.

The media initially portrayed him as "angelic boy" who later turned into a devil, along with a childhood photo of him.

This, even after Tarrant's 74-page Islamophobic manifesto was released and he admitted that he wanted to physically remove immigrants and non-white European races.

Had this been a Muslim, or any non-white for that matter, they would immediately be labelled a terrorist. And one sketchy photo would be publicised along with that.

He even compared himself to struggle icon Nelson Mandela, after labelling him as a "terrorist".

The Christchurch shooting may be viewed as an isolated incident in New Zealand, but it is surely part of a driving force of Islamophobia on a global scale.

This is a result of leaders across the globe – leaders who have fuelled anti-Islamic sentiment that directly targets Muslim groups around the world, in the minds of white supremacists.

Many of the victims fled to New Zealand for a better life for them and their families. They did not plant roots there to destroy and cause havoc. They worshipped peacefully and rebuilt their lives.

No place is free of violence, but when New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the massacre as "one of New Zealand's darkest days", it put no doubt in my mind that this is not a regular occurrence in the country. In fact, the incident mimics school shootings, attacks on synagogues, and churches in the US – a place ruled by President Donald Trump, who unsurprisingly was referred to in Tarrant's manifesto, where he was praised as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose".

Now, I am not saying that Trump caused the attack, but as previously mentioned, world leaders have fuelled non-white and anti-Islamic sentiment.

The media remains a problem. I have read countless news stories where a non-white perpetrator was called a rapist or a murderer almost immediately, but where a white perpetrator was "undergoing psychological evaluation".

Again, there are articles that jump at Muslim perpetrators and label them terrorists, but do not do the same with their white counterparts. "Shooter" or "gunman" does not have the same effect as "terrorist".

I am not saying this for clickbait. I am calling a spade a spade. Tarrant indirectly called himself a terrorist as well, so why shouldn't we? This is not just in New Zealand, but all around the world.

I won't deny that in South Africa, we have it fairly easy. We, as Muslims, are able to go to prayers and masjids without the fear of being attacked and gunned down as a whole. Yes, there were attacks on Muslims in masjids not too long ago, but not on the scale of the New Zealand massacre.

We might have it fairly easy, but it won't be long before another "white supremacist" decides it is time to act in the name of cleansing the population of that which shouldn't be. We are victims of war and terror attacks in other major parts of the world.

Of course there are radical Islamists, but the media should not deny that there is an ever-growing threat of white supremacists either.

- Naseema Barday is a content producer at News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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