We will not be intimidated by terrorists
2019-04-01 17:40:55 -
Opinion
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By Mohammed Samaana

 

If anything positive came out of the terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand, it was the way New Zealand’s prime minister handled the situation, and she deserves all the praise she is getting.

 

Jacinda Ardern showed that she is a breath of fresh air into the world of political leadership. In any speech or interview in the aftermath of the massacre, she came across as a leader for all the people in her country regardless of their background, and united them in the face of terror that sought to divide them.

 

She stands out in comparison with some other western leaders who demonise immigrants, defend bigotry towards Muslims as free speech and are always reluctant to refer to violence perpetrated by white supremacists as terror. She is certainly at the opposite end of the political spectrum of US President Donald Trump, who banned nationals of several Muslim countries from entering the US and wants to build a wall alongside the border with Mexico.

 

She also stands out when compared with the British PM Theresa May who has failed to deal with racism and Islamophobia within her own party. In her own address after the attacks to the UK parliament, she didn’t call the perpetrator a terrorist and talked about an attack on New Zealand without mentioning that it was aimed at Muslims.

 

What May did not say is, however, more important than what she did say. Despite a sharp rise in attacks against Muslims and mosques in Britain — which increased by 593 per cent in the week after Christchurch attacks — Theresa May did not mention at all that there is a need to tackle incitement against Muslims, or any other form of extremism.

 

Unfortunately this is becoming a common problem where the far right is on the rise and mainstream politicians shy away from tackling the problem as if they are endorsing extremist white supremacists. For example, in a far-right march which took place in Poland in 2017, marchers openly called for ‘Islamic holocaust’ and a white Europe of brotherly nations. The Polish government referred to the march, which is one of Europe’s largest annual neo-Nazi gatherings, as ‘a great celebration of Poles’.

 

The crime itself shows the brutality and ruthlessness of the white supremacists as the terrorist opened fire indiscriminately at worshipers, killing men, women and children. The youngest of his victims – who deserve more publicity – was only three years old. This is a reflection of the ideology they believe in. This stresses the need and the importance of taking them seriously.

 

For ethnic minorities, it is a wake-up call to start lobbying politicians to act to criminalise hate speech and to get the police and intelligence services to pay more attention to the increasing threat coming from the far right. The battle against racism, however, can’t be won without a proper media strategy that combats the way in which immigration is portrayed as a problem and immigrants are seen as inferior, or even suspects.

 

New Zealand’s PM already took the first right step by reforming gun laws, which should be echoed by other countries. Not only that, but her reaction to far-right terrorism should be replicated. As the threat coming from the white supremacist groups grows, so should the fight against it. While being in a mosque will not feel safe as it used to be, my fellow Muslims and I will not be intimidated by terrorists.

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Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.

TAGS : terrorism Christchurch New Zealand mosques PM
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