One Year After the Christchurch Terror Attack: What We’ve Learned

The days of the “lone-wolf” socially troubled white men are over – its time to recognize the truth of the matter. Right-wing terrorism is real. White supremacy is real, far-right violence is real, neo-Nazism and neo-fascism are real, and we must acknowledge this threat lest we allow the continued violence of far-right extremists to take hold of our societies.

It has been one year since the deadly far-right terrorist attacks that shocked not only New Zealand, but the world. 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, an Australian national, opened fire at two mosques, Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre during Friday prayers. There were reportedly around 200 to 300 worshippers at the time, and without warning the far-right terrorist opened fire. 51 worshippers were killed, with the youngest only 3 years old. Dozens more were injured.

Inspired by far-right rhetoric and white supremacy, this terrorist attack highlighted the horrifying reality of the growing Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant hatred that has spread throughout not only civil society but governments as well.

It has been one year since, with only continued attacks on both Muslims and ethnic minorities. Modi’s growing fascist government in India has stripped Muslim-majority Kashmir of its rights, inspired mob-violence in New Delhi that killed dozens, and introduced citizenship bills that exclude only Muslims from applying for asylum. China is currently detaining up to 2 million ethnic minority Muslims in concentration camps across the province of Xinjiang. Israel, with allies in powerful countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia, continues to oppress and strip the Palestinians of any form of human rights or dignity. These are but a few examples of the horrendous acts of Islamophobia and severe human rights abuses that are happening on our watch.

In an effort to both combat Islamophobia as well as raise awareness on the dire need to learn from our past to better the future, here are three things we’ve learned in the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks in our growing polarized world:

1. Right-Wing Terrorism is Real

The days of the “lone-wolf” socially troubled white men are over – its time to recognize the truth of the matter. Right-wing terrorism is real. White supremacy is real, far-right violence is real, neo-Nazism and neo-fascism are real, and we must acknowledge this threat lest we allow the continued violence of far-right extremists to take hold of our societies.

Terrorism itself is not an ideology – it is means used by many groups to help achieve their goals or to gather attention towards their movement. Used by religious fundamentalists, the extreme left (as seen historically with the Baader Meinhof/Red Army Faction in 1970s Germany), or the extreme right to just name a few, terrorism is an act, not an ideology in it of itself. So why is it so hard for both society and governments to acknowledge right-wing terrorism?

The growth of far-right extremists, influenced and connected under a banner of neo-Nazism and white supremacy, are now using terrorism as a means to further their movement. Right-wing terrorism, therefore, is a real and tangible threat – an act used by those bent on polarizing society and tilting favor towards a white, Christianized group of people.

The list of right-wing terrorist acts have grown since Christchurch – London, Germany, France, and the US have all been witness to it to name just a few. What must it take for us to recognize and combat the growing and connected use of right-wing terrorism around the world today?

2. It Does Matter How Politicians React

The aftermath of the terrorist attack in Christchurch was a time of immense pain and confusion – but also of powerful responses from world leaders as well. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reacted in what many have praised as a leading example for other world leaders – with empathy towards the Muslim community paired with a fierce response to future terrorists. Refusing to even name the terrorist, she famously stated:

They [the victims] are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was…It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack.”

Famously wearing a hijab as she went to comfort the survivors of the terrorist attack, Ardern was commended for her ability to bring the community together despite such a horrendous attempt at breaking it. Opening a special meeting in Parliament in the days following the attack by stating: “Al-Salaam Alaikum (peace be upon you)”, she continued by saying, “I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless”. In the days following she also announced the nation’s gun laws would be changed, in an effort to send a clear message of ‘never again’.

While glorifying politicians are (arguably) never in our best interest, it does remain apparent that having a world leader who does make the effort to wear a hijab when visiting the mourning, who does open up a parliament speech with “a-salamu alaykum” to send a message, and who does make a clear point of calling a white neo-Nazi a terrorist remains incredibly important.

It does matter how our politicians react. So in turn, it does matter when we have neo-fascists like Donald Trump or Narendra Modi or Xi Jinjing in power who continue to abuse their power and boast in their impunity around violating human rights. It remains imperative on our parts to ensure that we are voting into power those who are in tune with the people, as well as protesting against those leaders who fail to deliver the most basic of moral and human rights.

3. Muslims Must Continue in Humanitarian Activism

Finally, we’ve learned one year after Christchurch that despite the constant onslaught of Islamophobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy, it remains more important than ever for Muslims to continue to be civically engaged and active within humanitarian circles. Without Muslim engagement in humanitarian activism, we cannot hope for dire issues to be raised and discussed at the highest levels of power. Who else will bring attention to the 2 million detained in concentration camps in China? Who else will continue to raise awareness about the plight of the Rohingya refugees?

In addition, without Muslim engagement in political circles or community leadership roles we cannot hope for change from the bottom-up. Who else will ensure communities are aware of the injustice happening in Kashmir? Who else can help spearhead movements to boycott Israeli products until the basic human rights of Palestinians are met?

Raising awareness, setting up charity campaigns, writing articles or blogs, creating boycott campaigns, and even calling up or writing to your local MP or politician are tangible ways for Muslims to stay involved and engaged within the community. We cannot become bystanders to our own story – if we are to be forcibly involved in an era of Islamophobia and xenophobia, let it be an era where we defeat it as a community of humanitarian activists. If we cannot ignore the threat of Islamophobia, then let us take it head-on.

Let us pray that the memory of those innocents killed in a war of extremes will not be lost in vain, and instead be used as a torch to both combat the darkness of hatred as well as light the path of hope.


Christchurch Terrorist Attack:

  • What Happened here. The aftermath of the terrorist attack here and here.

Right-Wing Terrorism is Real:

  • Examples of London and UK based right-wing terrorism here and here. Growth of Islamophobia in the UK here and here.
  • Examples of Germany’s Right-Wing Terrorism here and here. Growth of Islamophobia in Germany here and here.
  • Example of France’s Right-Wing Terrorism here. Growth of Islamophobia in France here and here.
  • Example of US Right-Wing Terrorism here. Growth of Islamophobia in the US and Canada here, here, and here.
  • Right-Wing Terrorism and Islamophobia in Wales, Australia, Norway, and Canada.

It Does Matter How Politicians React:

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response here and here.

Muslims Must Continue in Humanitarian Activism:

  • China’s Genocide Against Ethnic Muslims found here, here, and here.
  • Information on the Rohingya crisis found here, here, and here.
  • India’s campaign against Kashmir, the New Delhi riots, and anti-Muslim bills found here, here, and here.
  • Israel’s Oppression and Colonization of Palestine found here and here.

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