The horrific massacre of worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand comes as a grim reminder of the perilous impact of the anti-immigrant hate campaign sweeping across several parts of the world. And, more ominously, the xenophobic narrative is being mainstreamed in the United States and some European countries with right-wing thinkers and politicians gaining increasing traction. What one witnessed in the methodical slaughter of praying Muslims in Christchurch was the white supremacist equivalent of the ISIS agenda. It was a macabre manifestation of a systematic campaign against non-white immigrants that started post-9/11 and gained momentum with the rise of right-wing parties. The gunman, a 28-year-old right-wing extremist from Australia, sprayed bullets on the gathering indiscriminately, killing at least 49 people and injuring over 20 others in what New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described as an extraordinary and unprecedented act of terrorist violence. Along with Australia, New Zealand, which has no history of mass shootings, has been admitting a growing number of immigrants in recent years. Muslims have lived in New Zealand for more than 150 years, accounting for just over one per cent of the country’s population. A 17-minute video footage from a camera worn by the gunman as he shot at fleeing worshipers and into piles of bodies with a semi-automatic rifle was streamed on Facebook. This is a chilling trend in terrorism that raises questions over the ability of the global tech companies to block violent content from going viral.
The underlying ideology of the note, left by the attacker before embarking on the murderous mission, is one of pure hatred for immigrants. The violent ideology of white supremacy is real and needs to be nipped in the bud. Make no mistake: It is the white man’s equivalent of ISIS. It is a zero-sum absolutism similar to Islamic terror outfit. The shooter says in his manifesto that he admires US President Donald Trump for being a “symbol of renewed white identity”. This shows how mainstream politicians have been fueling radicalism by their anti-immigrant policies. Like Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, the New Zealand attacker cites right-wing personalities and military battles glorified by white nationalists, such as the Siege of Vienna in 1683 where Europe was claimed to have staved off Islamic invasion. The 87-page manifesto and the digital footprint left behind by the attacker were methodical attempts to radicalise the communities. The manifesto cited “white genocide”, a term used by racist groups to refer to immigration and growth of minority populations, as his motivation. The power of online platforms to spread hatred and sow discord is a new reality that the world has to grapple with.