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The psychology of fear and hate: Christchurch attacks must be dealt with as pure act of terrorism

Flowers are seen outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. Photograph:( Reuters )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 17, 2019, 03.00 PM (IST) Written By: Wajahat Qazi

What could prompt a person to mow down Muslim worshippers in a mosque who had congregated there for the Friday prayer? Sheer hatred is the answer. But, where does or did this hatred come from? Through context and “subterranean” currents and winds. The obvious reference here is to the killing of many Muslim worshippers in New Zealand. That the carnage occurred in this country is not only surprising but also alarming. New Zealand, in almost all indices, score(d) high intolerance, integration of minorities into the body politic and society and general interfaith peace and amity that obtained in the country. But, it is now witnessed to the carnage that is not only unprecedented but horrendous.

The very fact that the carnage occurred in New Zealand must make powers that be, across the Western world introspect. There is a severe problem within that must be addressed before it assumes disastrous proportions. The problem is Islamophobia which roughly means “hatred, prejudice and bias toward Muslims and Islam”. The Christchurch Mosque shootings are but one manifestation of this scourge and blight. This noxious concept or idea is not novel; it actually harks backs to the Crusades when Islam and the West entered into a centuries-long confrontation of a political and military nature. The dynamic of the Crusades was such that both Islam and the West defined themselves against each other. That is, each held the other to be its “Other”. 

In the ensuing melee, what may called “narrational” or narrative and discursive war ensued that sought a toxic denigration of either? Narrative and discourse, especially the noxious variety, are not innocent; neither are these ephemeral. These are long duree in nature and can shape the historical memory and consciousness of a given people. It is this centuries-old discourse and narrative that could be said to determine the tenor of relations between Islam and the West. And, it is these twin themes, given impetus by events and developments across the world, that could be held to be the incubus of the shooting and killings in New Zealand. 

It is then context that bred the killer responsible for the killings. This is not to exonerate the murderer and his cowardly act but to put matters into perspective.  The brutal coward is, in the final analysis, a foot soldier and executor of an idea or noxious ideology that denigrates, hates, and wants Muslims exterminated. While, in the realm of immediacy, the man and his accomplices must face the full force of law, but the larger and the more compelling challenge is to check the evil and noxious theme of Islamophobia in the West. 

Be it Trump’s the United States, or Marie le Pen’s France or the growing salience of right-wing parties in Europe, all seek to use Muslims as the “Other” to push their nasty and noxious political agendas. In this sense then, a ghastly event like the New Zealand carnage was perhaps waiting to happen. While there have been condemnations of the terror attack, but these are tepid and not enough. It is the context and the climate that Islamophobia generates that must be dealt with, firmly and strenuously. First and foremost, the attack must be called and dealt with as a pure act of terrorism. And, then the toxicity of the underlying ideologies that incubate it in the Western world must be taken on. 

All this becomes salient and poignant in a world where, despite the derailing of the momentum of globalisation, which entails movement of diverse peoples across the world, Islam and the West meet again, albeit in a different context, scale and scope. A fearful minority within the West is neither salubrious nor called for. Islam and Muslims within the West are a reality that cannot be wished away. They are there to stay. It is then incumbent upon powers that be in the West to make Muslims within feel safe and secure. Moreover, it is in the nature of an imperative for the West to introspect and actually hark back to the principles and philosophies that are its defining features, tolerance and countenancing diversity being salient ones. The starting point of this review would be confronted Islamophobia and the toxic forces that give rise to it. 

Last but not least, Muslims within the West and across the world must not tar Westerners with the same brush and hold them to be the equivalent of the Christchurch killer. This would amount to giving in and caving to the real agendas of those who are behind the killings. We, Muslims, across the world, must demonstrate grace, poise, the expansiveness of vision and belief, which correspond and mesh with the great and holy principles of Islam. Our reaction, as our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the odious and horrendous attack must be measured and sober. We must not give ammunition to the detractors and ill-wishers of our faith and religion. Let peace prevail. Salaam! 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

Wajahat Qazi

Wajahat Qazi is particularly interested in politics, global security and political economy. He is a wanderer and fancies himself to be a wannabe writer.

Story highlights

New Zealand, in almost all indices, score(d) high intolerance, integration of minorities into the body politic and society and general interfaith peace and amity that obtained in the country. But, it is now witnessed to the carnage that is not only unprecedented but horrendous.