News Desk |
More than 45 people have been shot dead and 20 injured in attacks at two mosques during Friday afternoon prayers in Christchurch in what is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” as police uncovered multiple explosive devices attached to cars and Commissioner Mike Bush urged all mosques across the country to close their doors for the time being.
At least 4 people are in custody including a woman. The terrorist perpetrator is believed to be an Australian man named Brenton Tarrant.
For many, the atrocity holds horrifying parallels with the Quebec City Mosque attack in 2017. The Quebec City mosque shooting was a terrorist attack and mass shooting on the evening of January 29, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, a mosque in the Sainte-Foy neighborhood of Quebec City, Canada. 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonette, opened fire on men and children inside – killing six, injuring 19 and traumatizing many of its 500 weekly worshippers.
According to him, nine far-right extremists from different European nations gathered together to form the group and pledged to seize political power and drive Islam from the continent.
Both Bissonette and Tarrant seem to be fans of American President Donald Trump. And both seem to have been radicalized online.
The New Zealand mosque shooter said he supported Donald Trump "as a symbol of white identity and common purpose."
— Caroline Orr Bueno, Ph.D (@RVAwonk) March 15, 2019
For many, the attacks are a part of a global terrorist movement known as Militant Islamophobia. According to the Oxford dictionary, Islamophobia means “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam”. Militant Islamophobia or Islamophobic terrorism is a violent aspect of this hate-filled ideology.
Militant Islamophobia has manifested itself in the form of intimidation, arson, mosque bombings, harassment and assault of Muslim women, desecration of Muslim holy texts, verbal and written abuse, disfigurement of graves, murder and last but not least terrorism. Since the election campaign that brought Trump to power initiated in March 2015 through February 2016, Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative has documented 180 incidents of anti-Muslim violence, including 12 murders, 34 physical assaults, 56 acts of vandalism, nine arson attacks and eight shootings or bombings in the US alone.
However, the aspect of terrorism by individuals or outfits with specific political agendas has been the most troubling of all. Alexandre Bissonette, the Quebec mosque attacker was known for being a fan of US President Donald Trump, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the Israeli army and other far-right groups. He is also known for bearing a “grudge against the Left”. In October 2016, a militia group called the ‘Crusaders’ plotted to target Muslim immigrants in order to “wake people up”.
Robert Doggart, a potential congressman tried to recruit men and material for an attack on a Muslim community. He was arrested and has evaded terrorism charges because “federal law focuses almost entirely on foreign extremists”.
However till date, the most infamous of Islamophobic terrorism has been the 2011 Norway attacks. Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right Islamophobic militant killed eight people by detonating a van bomb amid the Regjeringskvartalet in Oslo, and then mass murdered 69 participants of a Workers’ Youth League (AUF) summer camp on the island of Utøya. Breivik was categorized by analysts as being a right-wing extremist with an entrenched revulsion of Islam who deemed himself a defender of Europe committed to curtailing Muslim immigration into Europe.
In Buddhist majority, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, religious nationalist groups like the Ma-Ba Tha, Bodu Bala Sena and Ravana Balaya have been found complicit in terror attacks on Muslims and other minorities.
Breivik called himself a member of a transnational terror group called Knights Templar Europe. According to him, nine far-right extremists from different European nations gathered together to form the group and pledged to seize political power and drive Islam from the continent. Many have doubted his claims yet in 2012, Breivik’s “deputy” threatened key Norwegian figures through letters.
A website The Knights Templar Europe Report is up and running detailing the activities of members. It claims to be behind the failed attacks by Vojtěch Mlýnek in Ostrava, the Czech Republic’s third largest city and Brunon Kwiecień in Poland who killed his own mother in order for secrecy. It has also claimed that Pavlo Lapshyn who was jailed for 40 years for the murder of Muhammad Saleem and mosque bombs in the UK, is a member.
The West is not the only region afflicted by Islamophobic terrorism. India has seen a large rise in attacks against its Muslim community by state and non-state actors especially after the ascendancy of the Hindutva group BJP to power. In Buddhist majority, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, religious nationalist groups like the Ma-Ba Tha, Bodu Bala Sena and Ravana Balaya have been found complicit in terror attacks on Muslims and other minorities. In Africa, urban-nomad divide, political differences are wedding with Islamophobia enabling groups like the Anti Balaka movement to perpetuate ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Despite the massive increase and threat imposed by militant Islamophobia, the Western world has largely ignored this menace. While it is heartening to know New Zealand Prime Minister has termed the horrifying attack as terrorism, it should be noted that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also termed the Quebec attack as terrorism, yet the perpetrator was charged with murder. It is high time that the West recognizes Islamophobia for what it is an ideology of terrorism.