An armed … man entered. It’s better to leave a blank before the word ‘man’, or else the entire perspective changes.
This matter of perspective has been well discussed and debated on the social media. If the blank was filled and the sentence read ‘an armed white Christian man entered the school and opened fire’, the reaction of the mainstream would be that he was mentally imbalanced. The solution: psychiatric treatment.
What if the armed man was a Muslim? Then with not an iota of doubt, this would be a ‘jihadi’ plot. The solution: drive out Muslims, start a war.
If the armed man was an Israeli or a US soldier, then he would be a protector of civilisation. He must be honoured as a hero. There are very few heads of state in the world who have not posed with guns, proudly donning their military uniforms.
When the incident occurred, the Bangladesh national cricket team was almost there, right in front of the mosque. At least three of the 50 persons who have died in the incident so far, were Bangladeshi. All deaths are equally sad, but when such a danger was so close to becoming a national tragedy, it is deeply disturbing. New Zealand and Bangladesh both grieve.
Who says a gun has no identity? Guns mean lucrative business and most of the owners are of the western world. The owners of these companies may not even kill a single mosquito, they may donate huge amounts to charities and the closest they get to war and killing is on the TV screen.
But those who use the guns to kill, are the buyers and sellers of these weapons. It is the ‘clean’ hands of these businessmen that are behind those who have been killing people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen or Rakhine state in Myanmar.
It is difficult to term any one particular community as ‘terrorists’. According to the Global Terrorism Database taken from the FBI database, Muslim terrorists were involved in only 6 per cent of the terrorist incidents which took place in the US between 1980 and 2005. Muslims make up 24 per cent of the world population, but the ratio of their involvement in terrorism is just 10:3 (from 1970 to 2017).
Leaving out the war-afflicted Syria, even in 2016-17, most of the terrorist incidents around the world were carried out by non-Muslims (Global Terrorism Index 2018).
In the New Zealand incident, the suspects include four white Christians, including an Australian. New Zealand’s prime minister said, most of the victims in the incident are migrants of New Zealand, including refugees. They took New Zealand as their home and this is their country. They are ours. But the person (or persons) who carried out this violence is no one to us.
On the flip side, an Australian senator has been criticised for a statement directly blaming Muslims for terrorism.
Breton Tarrant is being seen as the perpetrator of this brutal killing, but New Zealand’s police chief is certain that he is not alone in this act. In fact, the incident had been planned with others over a year. He had even hinted at such an attack on Twitter the day before, but no one paid attention. They also failed to arrive on the spot in time.
Brenton is not the only one. The theorist behind the hatred he spews out against Muslims and migrants online, is the French writer Jean Renaud Camus. His grand replacement theory calls for Muslims to be driven out of Europe and white supremacy to be established.
Adolf Hitler had the same ideology, and everyone knows the inhuman outcome of such beliefs. Even the US president Donald Trump speaks along similar lines. If the western governments are not careful, they will not escape danger either.
No community or nation can be held responsible as a whole for any particular incident. In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik opened fire and used explosives to kill 77 persons in Norway. His blog had been filled with anti-Muslim diatribe.
Like Norway, New Zealand is also known to be a peaceful country. But that peace could not prevent such communal feelings to simmer and grow. The court in Norway did not term Breivik as a terrorist. If it is a Muslim, then the security issue takes on political and military concerns. If it is any other religion, then it is a psychological problem.
When Charlie Hebdo and others were shot in France, a state of emergency was declared and the Muslim community was blamed. But after such a huge incident in New Zealand, the global emperor with no clothes, Donald Trump, remains unconcerned.
The world needs to be as alert about white terrorism as it is about Muslim terrorism. The gun-toting people of New Zealand like Breivik know that even if they are caught by the law, the western right-wingers see them as heroes. It is with similar spirit that some Muslim youth join up with al Qaeda or IS.
There is evidence of western geostrategic games wherever there is war and violence, whether in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia or Arakan (Rakhine). They cannot expect to reap the benefits of war, but not take in the refugees. They speak about liberal values, but protect people only of one religion.
This cannot be civilisation. Asia, Africa and Latin America are multi-national and multi-faith. Why will Australia, Europe and America not be so too?
Fear breeds hate. Ignorance and incompetence breed fear. Fear can be used to isolate. Hatred and fear are strong prisons. The culture industry churns out movies and stories where aliens from other plants, insects, even children, are portrayed as dangerous. They cannot expect the world to be a garden of flowers while they breed fear and hatred at the same time.
To live, one needs to know and to love.
* Faruk Wasif is a writer and journalist. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece appeared in Prothom Alo print edition and online version and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir