By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
Unfortunately, the aftermath of every major terror attack provides a platform for self-serving, narrow-minded, often bigoted, voices to forward their own agendas at a time when all the attention should be on the victims.
Following jihadist attacks, those with the unflinching belief that all global ills are a corollary of the West’s imperialism would waste no time in pointing fingers towards western foreign policy for an act rooted in a genocidal ideology.
Similarly, following the recent terror attack in Christchurch those rigidly earmarking radical Islam as having monopoly over violence jumped their guns to dub the massacre an ‘inevitable reaction’ to the global rise of jihad, completely whitewashing the white supremacism that the 74-page manifesto released by the mosque attacker was brimming over with.
Just like Islamism feeds off the follies of the Western foreign policy in the Muslim world, white supremacism justifies itself through the impact of jihad in the West. This helps deflect the attention from the immediate – and more alarming – cause of the terror attack, in turn further delineating the volatile divisions within the society by dehumanising the victims.
This is not to create any false equivalence between the impacts of the two supremacist ideologies – for better or worse. But the fact remains that despite the respective magnitudes still being poles apart, Islamist attacks have been declining around the world over the past three years, while white supremacist violence has been increasing – most notably in the US.
It is no coincidence that this time period has seen the political rise of the far-right in the West, with Brexit, the triumph of Donald Trump, and Europe witnessing the growth of the likes of Front National, Movimento 5 Stelle, Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs and Alternative für Deutschland, among others.
The Christchurch mosque shooter’s manifesto underlines the anti-immigration, antisemitic, white nationalist, Muslimophobic policies that many of these far-right parties have in their own manifestos. And hence, for those genuinely striving to curb terrorism of all kith and kin, it is important to identify – and counter – the ideological roots of the Christchurch terror attack.
This is not to suggest that Muslims no longer have any urgency to address the violent ideology in their midst or the turmoil in the Muslim world. For starters, we could indeed learn how to respond to similar attacks on minorities in our part of the world from the manner with which New Zealand has collectively expressed solidarity.
But now is not the time to focus on the many flaws in the Muslim world – ideological or otherwise. For the burden to do more can’t fall on the same community on occasions when the perpetrators of a terror attack belong to it and also when the victims come from it.
When a militant ideologue massacres members of a community, specifically at a time when they would be expressing their beliefs in their places of worship, neither the content of their faith nor the acts of other radical community members should factor in unconditional condemnations.
Yes, it is true that it is the identity of the perpetrator – and indeed the location of the shooting – that makes the Christchurch attack unique and has hence witnessed a strong global reaction. For, unfortunately, the Muslim world has been simmering with such attacks on mosques carried out by jihadists.
But that is precisely why touting Muslimophobic terrorism as ‘reaction to jihad’ is counterproductive, for 21st century jihad’s greatest victims have been Muslims themselves – in terms of the death toll and the geopolitical ramifications that the Muslim world has had to face.
Just like many progressive and reformist Muslim voices are striving to tackle the violent commandments in Islamic scriptures which fuel, or justify, jihadist terror, the white supremacist ideology needs to be addressed from within, without looking to pin the blame elsewhere.
Any form of violence has multi-pronged causes, which need to be addressed with the requisite nous and policy making. And yes, each supremacist ideology poses a unique threat which can’t be dealt with a one-size fits all retort.
But no single community – from any religion or race – can be held exclusively responsible for global volatility. Anyone adhering to such exclusivity would find themselves justifying one form of terrorism or the other.