Not only the family members of all the victims but right thinking Indians and people all across the world will find it impossible to come to terms with the Christchurch terrorist outrage. Eight Indians were among the fifty killed by Brenton Tarrant at the Masjid al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre during Friday prayers on March 15. Yet, amidst our collective grief and the anger, it is necessary, in the first place, to make sense of Tarrant’s motivations and what they represent.
Certainly, Tarrant’s action sprang from an ideology of hate deeply rooted in racism which is often hidden from view but nestles in the crevices of the western world. It would therefore be wrong to attribute the carnage only to the act of a single, deranged and delusional individual and ignore the ideology itself and its purveyors. In a notable speech to her parliament New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged that ideology was involved though she asserted that Tarrant did not imbibe it in New Zealand; he is an Australian national who only chose Christchurch as his target. Ardern did have the grace though to accept that the views the killer were present in New Zealand too.
In her address Ardern made an impassioned plea to deny Tarrant the notoriety he sought through his actions and vowed not to take his name. The question is if he should be made a non-person or profiled as a despicable specimen of an exclusivist and violent thought process and the dangers and inhumanity of that thinking itself be exposed, challenged and defeated. Tarrant live-streamed his horrendous acts for some time. It was right to ensure that its video was removed from circulation. But he also put out a manifesto—The Great Replacement which shows the malignant convolutions of the twisted mind of this twenty-eight-year-old. The manifesto needs to repudiated for its falsities, illogic and mischief. It cannot be brushed aside as the pathological outpourings of a deranged mind.
Tarrant’s manifesto is a rant against the migration of non-white people into European lands. Ironically New Zealand and Australia are included in the category of European lands because the composition of the majority which follows European culture. Obviously, the genocide of the Australian population is a minor forgettable detail! Tarrant terms this migration as an invasion and hence migrants are the enemy invaders who have to be mercilessly exterminated. Children too cannot be spared and indeed he did not do so as he proceeded on his rampage.
The sub-text of the manifesto is based on white supremacist thinking which is anti-democratic, violent and fascist. The western world projects itself as the bastion of human rights in contemporary times. It was not too long ago when it fully justified its colonialism and asserted that it was the white man’s burden to civilise ‘lesser breeds without the law’. There are pockets of opinion in the west which continue to uphold the view that colonialism was not evil ab initio. This provides the fertile ground for white-supremacist thinking. The time has come when the west must acknowledge that colonialism did enormous damage to the colonised peoples. Only with that can it fundamentally fight the ideas which gives rise to persons like Tarrant.
The attack on the mosques represent Islamophobia. This has to be denounced and pulled out from all societies. It is necessary to educate non-Muslims in the values and principles of the Islamic faith where the very word defining the faith means peace, where the traditional greeting seeks to confer the blessings of peace. Thus, those who espouse violence cannot represent the essence of such a faith. Indeed, individuals and groups who are wedded to violence and have no compunction is shedding the blood of innocents cannot belong to any religion despite all their claims.
Tarrant names individuals who have inspired him. Most are racist anti-immigration leaders of the past and some are present even today. He refers to President Donald Trump too in a manner that is noteworthy. Responding to a self-asked question if he is or was a supporter of Trump he writes “As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear God, no.” Trump should have forcefully chastised Tennant and his ideology which derives from the Ku Klux Klan. He has not done so.
He should have expressed solidarity with the victims and denounced Islamophobia. That too he has not done. This could have been a moment of introspection for the west in general and in other parts of the world too. That is regrettably not taking place.
This terrorist attack and Tennant’s use of the social media has renewed the debate of the responsibility of its platforms to sift hate speech instantaneously and quash it. Ardern told parliament “The are the publisher. Not just the postman.
There cannot be a case of all profit and no responsibility”. Ardern is on the right track. It will not be easy to rein in these companies because they are all pervasive and no one wants the advantages of instant communications to be curtailed. But if an international consensus develops the technology can be developed to do so.
New Zealand has tightened its lax gun laws. The graver problem that freely available guns’ pose is in the United States. There is no chance that they will be controlled there anytime soon.
Ultimately, the Christchurch terror shows the message of tolerance has to be asserted forcefully and across societies.