Asif Haroon Raja |
“The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery.” – Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-1968), US civil rights leader. The gruesome massacre of Muslim worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, the third largest city of New Zealand on March 15, has sparked horror and has shocked the world.
Although New Zealand is considered as one of the safest countries in the world, Christchurch itself has a history of far-right violence. Several attacks had taken place in the city since the 1980s. Australian-born gunman Brenton Tarrant mowed down 41 worshippers offering Friday prayers in Al-Noor Mosque, killed 10 in another mosque in Linwood and injured 50 including women and children. Among the martyred, nine were Pakistanis including two (father and son) who grappled with the assassin and tried to snatch his gun. After exhausting ammunition of his two semi-automatic guns marked with logos, the assassin brought his third gun from the trunk of his car and kept firing on the dead and injured to make sure no one survived.
The two oldest disputes – Palestine and Kashmir – are the root causes of the growth of extremism in Muslim-majority countries. These longstanding disputes must be resolved.
The visiting Bangladesh cricket team had a narrow escape. Brenton and his three accomplices were arrested and produced before the court, the following day. Brenton, an Islamophobe, espouses an anti-immigrant ideology. Obsessed with far-right and neo-Nazi ideology, he had uploaded a 74-page manifesto describing Muslim immigrants as a threat to Western culture and had outlined motivation for his actions. Brenton had been planning this attack for the last two years and had reportedly informed all concerned about his intentions. Inspired by Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik, believing in white supremacy and considering the US President, Donald Trump, as his hero, his objective was to scare away immigrants from New Zealand. He live streamed the entire grisly episode on social media.
Morbidity of the wanton slaughter has horrified all and sundry, and almost everyone has described the killer as a monster. Visibly disturbed Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Arden dubbed it as the “darkest day” in the history of the country. Wearing black clothes, she condoled and consoled the bereaved families and the Muslims in Christchurch. The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, called the gunman a violent extremist, but failed to call the massacre a “terrorist attack”. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a one-minute silence to express grief. However, Trump initially refused to denounce the carnage and denied that white extremism is a rising threat.
On New Zealand prime minister’s insistence that he should express sympathy for the Muslims, the US president changed his stance but still did not term Brenton what he is a “terrorist”. Brenton’s country of citizenship, Australia has a dark history of pursuing repugnant racist migration policies for almost two centuries and where white fascism is scaling new heights. Australia will need to do more to recognise its legacy of racist violence against non-white populations. This grisly incident is a big slap on the face of the US-led Western world that has been constantly demonizing Islam and the Muslims and branding them as terrorists.
Western leaders have been equating Islam with fascism. It is this fixated mindset which kept the Global War on Terror (GWoT) confined to the Muslim majority countries only. Tragically, Buddhists have killed Muslims in Burma, Christians have killed Muslims in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa and in the West, Hindus have slaughtered Muslims in Kashmir, Jews have killed Muslims in Palestine, and yet still Muslims are branded as terrorists. If a non-Muslim kills and murders innocent men and women he is described as a mentally-disturbed shooter; if a Muslim shoots even in self-defence, he is right away branded as a terrorist.
Several attacks had taken place in the city since the 1980s. Australian-born gunman Brenton Tarrant mowed down 41 worshippers offering Friday prayers in Al-Noor Mosque.
Two set of laws are in vogue in the USA and in Europe. White perpetrators of violence are seen as individual acts owing to mental illness. In the case of Muslims, violence is explained as the so-called clash of civilisations and all Muslims and Islam get blamed. Radicalism has been tagged to Islam only.
A German Muslim scholar when asked to give his views on terrorism and Islam, said: “Who started World War I? Not Muslims! Who started World War II? Not Muslims! Who killed six million Jews in the Holocaust? Not Muslims! Who killed 20 million Aborigines in Australia? Not Muslims! Who dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Not Muslims! Who killed more than 100 million natives in North America? Not Muslims! Who killed over 50 million natives in South America? Not Muslims! Who shipped 180 million African people in chains to the USA as slaves and 88 per cent of whom died and were thrown overboard into the Atlantic Ocean? Not Muslims!.”
The US, Western Europe, Israel and India dub all Muslims as extremists and terrorists without defining terrorism. If a non-Muslim does something bad, it is crime. If a Muslim commits the same crime, he is termed a “terrorist”. The demonization of Islam and Muslims is justified under the banner of “freedom of expression”. However, freedom of expression is not applied across the board for instance in the case of discussions on the subject of the Holocaust. The rise of racism and fascism in non-Muslim majority countries have not been taken seriously. These curses are more rampant in the USA, Western Europe, Israel and India.
Hatred against Muslims has been systematically injected on the basis of false perceptions and misconceptions about Islam. Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and the UK had voiced serious concern over the migration of refugees from Syria and Libya, and have said that it must be stopped. The refugee influx, the unprecedented rise of far-right parties in Europe, UK’s Brexit and the incident of San Bernardino and Paris attacks in 2015 have given a toxic rise to Islamophobia and hate crimes. The far-right and well-funded Islamophobic network has espoused blatantly racist ideas. Muslims are seen as the enemy “within”.
So-called educated elite are in the lead to dehumanise the Muslims. Discriminatory policies such as the ban on hijab, on minarets and restricting freedom of speech and religious practices, are in practice. Islamophobia has become a real danger to the foundations of democratic order and values in Europe. It has also become the main challenge to social peace and co-existence. Everyday life of a Muslim in Europe be it at school, workplace, mosque, on public transport or on the streets is in constant danger.
Racism is more entrenched in Europe than in the USA since it has a colonial history in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Even after decolonization, racist ideas and practices have persisted. Europe used anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric and blamed them for Europe’s economic woes to make electoral gains in 2010. The British National Party, Wilder’s political party in Holland and Sweden’s Democrats made political gains. The latter gained power on an anti-Muslim campaign.
In the case of Muslims, violence is explained as the so-called clash of civilisations and all Muslims and Islam get blamed. Radicalism has been tagged to Islam only.
In the USA, Islamophobia and Orientalism are more recent which gained currency after World War II when the power of European nations declined and the USA emerged as a superpower. Closeness with Israel was another factor. The threat of Islamic fundamentalism was coined after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. Neocons-Likud alliance shaped the Jihadist threat in the 1980s. After the fragmentation of the USSR and the demise of Communism in 1991, Communism was replaced with Islam as the major threat to the New World Order and Capitalism.
It was in the 1990s that far-right in the USA began to engage with Islamophobia, and surged in influence after 9/11. The American far-right collaborated with the European far-right and both developed a common global counter Jihadist narrative and movement. Crimes against the Muslims in the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK and Western Europe and now in New Zealand, have risen alarmingly but their crimes have never been labelled as terrorism. Far-right in Europe has gathered strength because of the gradual weakening of the political left and centre-left.
In the USA, both the Republicans and Democrats have promoted racism, fascism and have supported the war on terror. Both have made use of racist policing to help consolidate national security state and promote the US imperialism from the era of the Cold War to that of the War on Terror. 9/11 was a false flag operation and the Global War on Terrorism (GWoT) launched in October 2001 was a cover, planned to achieve geostrategic and geo-economic objectives. George W Bush junior initiated the war on terror without defining terrorism. He and his team of neocons coopted the Nato, India, and Israel and excluded the Christians, Jews and Hindus from terrorism.
Their guns were focused against Islam and Muslims only. Except for North Korea, all the listed targets in the so-called “Axis of Evil” were Muslim-majority countries. Former US president Barack Obama further ratcheted up the hatred against Muslim-majority countries. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya were targeted on trumped-up charges. The current US President Trump has only added fuel to the anti-Muslim feelings in the West. He has all along been spewing venom against Muslims. President Trump scapegoated the immigrants to distract the attention of the American working class from joblessness, lack of healthcare and other social inequities.
The British National Party, Wilder’s political party in Holland and Sweden’s Democrats made political gains. The latter gained power on an anti-Muslim campaign.
Corporate media has not only fanned Islamophobia and racism but also endorsed Trump’s rhetoric on white supremacy. The US security apparatus, hawks in the two political parties, universities and think tanks have also been fueling Islamophobia and promoting gun culture. In the last 18 years, Muslims have been disliked, hated and brutalized. Several Muslim countries have been destroyed, prosperous cities ruined, millions of Muslims killed, millions of women widowed, children orphaned, hundreds of thousands crippled and rendered homeless. Marooned people of Syria and Libya were left with no option but to migrate to other countries. They have now become a monstrosity for the far-right nationalists in Europe and the USA.
The gory game of bloodshed and mayhem was played with the help of hired proxies and puppet regimes in some Muslim-majority countries. The world at large let the crusaders kill and maim Muslims at will, myopically imagining that it will make the world safe and secure. Today, the whole world is turbulent and much more unsafe than what it was prior to 9/11. The US used its maximum force in Afghanistan but failed to subdue the Taliban whom they used to call “terrorists”. Today it is holding direct peace talks with them and bending over backwards to convince them to arrive at a political settlement, and to let the US troops exit with honour.
The US in its quest to seize control of oilfields and to establish Greater Israel by changing the boundaries of the Middle East has bloodied the whole region and turned it into a vortex of chaos. Once ISIS was created by the CIA in 2006 in Iraq to fight Al-Qaeda and then was used in Syria to topple Bashar Al-Assad regime, large numbers of white Jihadis veered toward this newly-formed caliphate in 2014-2015. The phenomenon of white Jihadis is attributable to rampant gun culture in the USA and Western countries and the arrogant attitude of their elites. Since then, chickens have come home to roost. Terrorism has now seeped into Europe and in the USA.
President Trump scapegoated the immigrants to distract the attention of the American working class from joblessness, lack of healthcare and other social inequities.
After 9/11, successive regimes in the USA have been claiming that terrorism is a major threat to the integrity of the USA as well as to global peace. However, the fact is that gun violence poses a much bigger threat to the USA than terrorism. Since 2001, 406,496 US citizens have been killed by guns in the USA in comparison to 3,380 killed worldwide due to terrorism. In the USA, Jihadists have killed 45 people since 9/11. All shootings in schools were perpetrated by white men and boys. Ironically when an American Muslim was found involved in San Bernardino, it was quoted to justify launching war on terror and increased focus on homeland security.
Christchurch massacre has left the Muslims residing in Western countries terrorized and traumatised. It has once again brought to light that terrorism has no religion, colour, race or gender and has no boundaries. Instead of focusing exclusively on Muslim-majority countries and blaming Muslims alone for terrorism the US and Europe need to introspect and carry out unbiased appraisal to determine as to who is responsible for triggering terrorism which has spread to every nook and corner of the world. They must admit that the growing threat of far-right terrorism has not been taken seriously since their entire attention has been only on Islamic radicalism.
Terrorism is the common enemy which needs to be collectively defeated under a well-thought-out strategy. It needs an integrated fight and united approach by the whole international community. If the world is to be made peaceful, and a secure place to live, the US, Israel and India, the three strategic partners in crime and the West will have to do away with double standards and hypocrisy. They must change their policy of violence and injustice and instead take the path of peace. The bloody war on terror must end, and Islamophobia must be replaced with a policy of co-existence, inter-faith harmony, and amiability.
The US and the West must recognise the growing threat of far-right, racism and fascism, and initiate steps to eradicate these menaces at the earliest. Necessary legislative work needs to be done to end gun culture. The two oldest disputes – Palestine and Kashmir – are the root causes of the growth of extremism in Muslim-majority countries. These longstanding disputes must be resolved.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist and author of five books. He is vice chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS, and Member Council TJP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.