On the 14th of March an Islamophobic terrorist, supported by several accomplices, took the lives of 49 people and wounded 20 others that were attending prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The terrorist, an Australian born man named Brenton Tarrant, attacked the two mosques with automatic weapons, and live-streamed the event with the intention of sparking a race war across the Western world.
Tarrant posted a manifesto to the messaging board 8Chan before initiating the attack, listing his motivations and describing his sickening brand of extremist hatred in unsettling detail. In a subsection entitled “Why did you carry out the attack?”, he states that his purpose was to “incite violence” between Muslim and Western peoples, in order to “add momentum to the pendulum swings of history”. His intention was ultimately to “destabilize” the Western world and to divide us along “political, cultural and … racial lines.”
A perverse twist is added to the horror by the casual manner in which both the manifesto is written and the attack was carried out. Throughout the document, the terrorist makes references to internet-culture, quoting memes at random in an attempt to provoke a wave of censorship to create further political tension. At the end of the live-stream, the murderer pauses to request his viewers to “subscribe to PewDiePie”, the current most-subscribed content creator on YouTube.
In the wake of the tragic event, the Australian senator Fraser Anning has taken the terrorist’s bait. On the 15th of March, Anning chose to turn the conversation toward the immigration debate, in an attempt to deflect away from the heinous crimes of the perpetrator and to refocus the discourse for his own political gain. In a press-release, the senator stated that he thought that the “real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.” To speak in such a cold and insensitive manner is to bring shame on both himself and Australian politics.
This should not be a political discussion. The killing of innocent people is and forever will be an issue that ought to be thoroughly divorced from shallow partisanship. To treat this moment as an opportunity to score political points, rather than to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens, is to renounce one’s own humanity. To engage in party politics at a tragic time like this is to be consumed totally by the political urge, and to lose touch with what it means to be a civilised person.
Politics tumbles on, its narratives are woven and its crises unfold; but this moment is set aside for the innocent victims of the attack in Christchurch. All outstanding disputes dissolve in the face of atrocities like this, and the political contests that accompany them are reduced to mere distraction. By setting aside our differences we disprove the evil prophecies of Tarrant’s manifesto, and inspire the mutual recognition of our common humanity. This moment, of all moments, is not the time to settle political scores, but to act counter to the terrorist’s warped visions, by embracing the communal bonds that tie us to one another.