Trump factor stands out in New Zealand mosque massacre

March 15, 2019

Forty-nine people have been killed and at least 20 others grievously injured when gunmen entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and opened indiscriminate fire at worshippers, including women and children, who had gathered for Friday prayers. This is the worst attack in the Pacific country's history.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference that the mosque shootings appeared to be a well-planned "terrorist attack".

"This is, and will be, one of New Zealand's darkest days," an ashen-faced Ardern said.

The prime minister also said two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles were found and were disarmed.

The mosques on target were the Masjid Al Noor in central Christchurch and another one in suburban Linwood.

Trump factor

The Australian gunman, identified as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants, calling them "invaders".

In his manifesto, Tarrant said he saw Trump as “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

The 28-year-old terrorist said he chose to use a gun over other weapons because it would spark a debate around the second amendment.

“With enough pressure the left wing within the United States will seek to abolish the second amendment, and the right wing within the US will see this as an attack on their very freedom and liberty,” Tarrant said. 

“This attempted abolishment of rights by the left will result in a dramatic polarization of the people in the United States and eventually a fracturing of the US along cultural and racial lines.

“Eventually, when the white population of the USA realizes the truth of the situation, war will erupt,” he added.

 Dressed in black

Len Peneha, a witness, said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.

He said he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived.

Peneha, who lives next to the mosque, said he went into the building to try and help. "I saw dead people everywhere."

'Anger towards Muslims through media'

Media portrayal of Muslims is fueling anger against the community according to a 2017 academic research in which 16,000 New Zealanders were surveyed.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Dunedin, the lead researcher, Dr John Shaver of the University of Otago, said, "Highly educated and leftist-oriented people normally tended to have a positive attitude toward not just Muslims but migrant populations in general."

"Our study found that highly educated people, even those on the left, developed anger towards Muslims through the media. The more they watched the news, the more prejudiced they became."

He was, however, careful to add that New Zealand is a multi-cultural society which is accepting of all groups. "There have been only a handful of incidents in which Muslims were harassed or their properties vandalized.

"Things here are not like they are in Australia, the US or the West," he said.

Overwhelmingly, Dr Shaver said New Zealand media tends to absorb content generated by US and European news outlets without providing context.

"In the western media, the focus is only on the conflicts in the Middle East," he said.

He went on to say that there is very little coverage in the New Zealand media of the Muslim population in country which is very diverse and has a history of more than 100 years.

"Instead of focusing on the domestic Muslim population, the media focuses on violence and looks at the community from a western media lens," he said.

Close shave for Bangladesh cricketers

ESPN Cricinfo reporter Mohammed Isam said the members of the Bangladesh cricket team, who were to play a Test match in Christchurch scheduled from Saturday, escaped unhurt from the mosque.

Mario Villavarayen, the strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.

"The players are shaken up but fine," Villavarayen was quoted as saying.

The world reacts to mosque attacks

Political and religious leaders from across the world have expressed their condemnation at the deadly shooting at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the deadly attack on the mosques, describing them as "the latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia."

"With this attack, hostility towards Islam, that the world has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing," Erdogan said at the funeral of a former Turkish minister.

"It is clear that the understanding represented by the killer that also targets our country, our people and myself, has started to take over Western societies like a cancer."

Erdogan's spokesman separately condemned what he called a "racist and fascist" attack.

"This attack shows the point which hostility to Islam and enmity to Muslims has reached," Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.

"We have seen many times Islamophobic discourse against Islam and Muslims turning into a perverse and murderous ideology. The world must raise its voice against such discourse and must say stop to Islamophobic fascist terrorism," he said.

US President Trump sent out a 270 character Tweet but failed to mention the word Muslims when condemning the deadly shootings.

Instead, he sent his "warmest sympathy and best wishes" to the people of the country.

"49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do," Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

Earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the US strongly condemned the attack.

"The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate," Sanders said.

According to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, a Jordanian man was among those killed and five other Jordanian nationals have been injured in the attack.

"This heinous massacre is an appalling terrorist crime. It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion," Jordan's King Abdullah said.

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Jubran Bassil warned against the rise of extremism in the West, saying it puts "communities at great risk and in direct confrontation that will only lead to the scourge of war."

Egypt said it stands by New Zealand and the families of the victims, and condemned "the despicable act of terrorism that goes against all principles of humanity and serves as a new reminder of the need to continue and intensify international efforts to fight terrorism, violence and extremism."

Qatar said it condemned in the strongest terms the "terrorist and brutal attack" in New Zealand.
In a statement on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Qatar reiterated its firm stance on rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of motives and reasons.
Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, strongly condemned the shooting as authorities were checking on whether any of its citizens were victims.
"The government and the people of Indonesia convey deep condolences to the victims and their families," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement.

In Muslim-majority Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the biggest party in its ruling coalition, said one Malaysian had been wounded in the attack he described as a "black tragedy facing humanity and universal peace".

"I am deeply saddened by this uncivilised act, which goes against humanistic values and took the lives of civilians," he said in a statement.

"We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of New Zealand."

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed the New Zealand attacks on rising Islamophobia after 2001's September 11 attacks.

"Shocked and strongly condemn the Christchurch, New Zealand, terrorist attack on mosques. This reaffirms what we have always maintained: that terrorism does not have a religion. Prayers go to the victims and their families," he tweeted.

"I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim. This has been done deliberately to also demonize legitimate Muslim political struggles," he added.

Afghanistan's ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Wahidullah Waissi, said on Twitter three Afghans had been wounded.

"My thoughts are with the family of Afghan origin who've been shot and killed at this heinous incident."

Organization of Islamic Cooperation

The Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the attack "served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia."

OIC's Secretary General, Youssef al-Othaimeen, urged the New Zealand government to provide more protection to Muslim communities living in the country.

Al-Azhar

Al-Azhar, the world's foremost Sunni Islamic institution and university, said the attacks reflects an "escalation of the discourse of hate, xenophobia and Islamophobia" in Western countries.

Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of the Cairo-based institution, condemned "the atrocious terrorist attack," and conveyed his condolences to the families of those killed.

(Source: agencies)

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