Christchurch Massacre And the Global Rise of Islamophobic and Far-Right Terror

The horrific murders of 50 people who were at prayer in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand by a white supremacist terrorist has left people across the world shocked, grief-stricken and angry. It has also confirmed that a global network of white supremacists is now a major international terrorist threat, all the more sinister because they are gaining not only inspiration but tacit approval from the US government and other far-right regimes.  

Emergency vigils and protests were held around the world where speakers expressed their pain and sorrow at this massacre of defenceless people, many of whom had gone to New Zealand to escape war and brutality.  Those who lost their lives were Muslims from all over the world – as well as five from India, they originated from Egypt, Palestine, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. They were of all ages - a woman shielding her wheelchair-bound husband, an adoring grandfather who rescued many before he himself was killed, young children just three and four years old.

As well as these tributes, there has been an outpouring of anger at the corporate media - exemplified internationally by Newscorp owned by Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch - which with its vicious daily doses of Islamophobia and racism has nurtured the far-Right and amplified its messages. After Christchurch it has continued in the same vein by humanising not the victims but the killer - portraying him as having been an 'angelic boy' who was bullied at school.  In Britain, the BBC invited the white supremacist group Generation Identity to their Newsnight programme after the massacre and allowed them to present their world view.

This international corporate media, of course, speaks on behalf of, and in conjunction with, imperialism and global capital. It has been the standard bearer for the so-called War on Terror which was the pretext for US invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and subsequently for the ‘regime change’ rhetoric which sought to justify interventions in Libya and most recently Syria. These new colonial wars led to countless deaths of Muslim women, men and children, leaving their countries destroyed with infrastructure torn down and cities levelled. These wars were, needless to say, fought so that global capital could plunder the resources of these countries. At the same time they have established a global discourse of Islamophobia which has created the tropes of Muslims as terrorists, for example, no matter that there is now ample evidence that it was the US and its allies which created and funded terrorists from Al Qaeda to ISIS; or the trope of the brutal hyper-sexual Muslim male from whose clutches Muslim women were to be liberated by the white men of imperialism.

We have seen in recent years the emergence of a string of neoliberal fascist regimes whose leaders include Trump with his ‘Muslim ban’, Israel’s Netanyahu with his daily gloating over killings of Palestinians, Hungary’s Orban with his obsessive hatred for refugees, along with Modi. In each of these, specific ideologies of hate intersect with a more global Islamophobia. In each, fascist stormtroopers and semi-autonomous mass killers - like the Christchurch terrorist - are approved and assiduously nurtured.

Other leaders like the UK’s Theresa May follow close behind. May's government has imposed a so-called Hostile Environment policy which particularly affects migrants and refugees from the very countries destroyed by the War on Terror and more recently she has been revoking the citizenship of Muslims who have been born in Britain and lived there all their lives. Australia, the home of the Christchurch terrorist, is notorious for its violent Islamophobia and racism, exemplified by its offshore prisons where refugees are held in appalling conditions.  

And though many people in New Zealand have expressed disbelief that such attacks could happen on their relatively liberal soil, the reality is that Muslims have been attacked there too by far-right thugs, and as Maori activists remind us, the country is steeped in racist white settler ideologies. Nevertheless, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shown strong leadership in her response to the massacre, first expressing genuine empathy and solidarity with the victims and survivors, epitomised in her phrase ‘they are us’, and subsequently taking decisive action to change gun laws and further calling for a global fight against racism and right-wing extremism.

Jacinda Ardern's response to the Christchurch massacre has been widely appreciated in India especially in stark contrast to the response shown by Indian governments to such shocking instances of terrorist attack, including the most recent incident in Pulwama where CRPF soldiers fell prey to a suicidal terror attack. Modi never really took responsibility for the huge security lapse that enabled the Pulwama attack nor did he show any of the exemplary leadership qualities that we have seen in the New Zealand PM's post-Christchurch intervention and articulation. Modi's reluctance to condemn the Christchurch attacks, (despite the loss of Indian lives), which starkly contrasted with his usual alacrity in personally tweeting about terror attacks worldwide, has also been quite apparent. But then we know what can be expected of the Modi government, for we cannot but remember how as Gujarat Chief Minister, Modi himself had personally overseen one of the most horrific episodes of large-scale anti-Muslim violence in India’s history, and how during his tenure as India's PM since May 2014 he has systematically nurtured and promoted hate and violence against the Muslim community, Dalits, and all dissenting voices, and helped perpetrators of terrorism against Muslims and rationalists evade conviction.