On Friday, March 15, followers gathered in the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre. Men, women and children were there to pray and worship. It was a peaceful gathering of those who share a common identity. Men were sitting on the left and women on the right. There was a serene mood in the air. All that changed at 1:40 p.m. when 28-year-old Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant opened fire on the innocent crowd. 50 people were killed and 50 others were injured.
The assailant had been live-streaming the shooting to Facebook. 1,000 viewers tuned in to watch the massacre. It took 29 minutes for someone to contact the authorities. The gunman was arrested. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister, deemed the attack as one of the country’s “darkest days.” She went on to say that the shooting suspects held “extremist views” that have no place in New Zealand or in the world.
In the last decade, there has been a rise in shootings. Some of the most publicized shootings have taken place in the United States and the United Kingdom. New Zealand is a relatively peaceful place that hardly makes the headlines for bad news. This goes to show that extremists do not reside in one place. They spread their influence through social media. The gunman live-streamed the attack to spread his message. Extremists believe that there is only one type of person that is ideal. Extremists like the gunman believe that if people are not white or Christian, they are nonhuman.
Islamophobia has manifested into the minds of some Western world citizens. They see Muslims as being a dangerous threat to society. They believe those from Middle Eastern countries are to be feared because their way of thinking is “behind” that of the Western world. Islamophobic hate crimes frequently occur, although the media does not record every incident.
This hateful ideology is rooted in fear. It is closely related to xenophobia, a fear of something or someone that is perceived as foreign. Anyone can be xenophobic or islamophobic, but in recent events, they have often been white males. The tragic shootings in Christchurch serve as a sobering example of what can result from the irrational hate of a group of people. People of different faiths or ethnicities should not feel at risk while living their daily lives. They should be able to commute to work, go downtown with friends or attend Mosque without wondering if they will make it home. This weight has been placed on their shoulders because they are different and have been persecuted for their beliefs.
Different is not a bad thing. It is our differences that make us beautiful, unique individuals. Everyone in our community serves a purpose. When one member is gone, the whole spectrum is thrown off. The West is often looked at as being refined and better than the East, which some view as barbaric and behind the times. The Christchurch shooting and countless other terror attacks have proved that statement to be false. It is no one’s business what religion a person chooses to practice. The victims of Christchurch were gathered to worship in unity.
The shooters of this tragedy wanted to cause a divide in our world by broadcasting it on social media for all to see. It is impossible to bring back the lives lost, but it has resulted in people growing closer. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a national ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons. This comes only six days after the shootings. The United States has often debated on gun control. The U.S. could take some cues from New Zealand. The world has come together to mourn and support our muslim brothers and sisters. We see you. We hear you. We are here for you.