Asif Haroon Raja
“The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery.” –
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), US civil rights leader.
The gruesome massacre of the Muslims in the two mosques in Christchurch, third largest city of New Zealand on March 15, has sparked horror and has shocked the world. Although New Zealand is considered as one of the safest countries of the world, Christchurch itself has a history of Far-Right violence. Several attacks had taken place in the past since 1980s.
Australian born gunman Brenton Tarrant mowed down 41 worshippers offering Friday prayers in Al-Noor Mosque, killed ten in another mosque in Linwood and injured 50 including women and children. Among the martyred, nine were Pakistanis including two (father and son) who grappled with the assassin and tried to snatch his gun. After exhausting ammunition of his two semi-automatic guns marked with logos, the assassin brought his third gun from the trunk of his car and kept firing on the dead and injured to make sure none survived. The visiting Bangladesh cricket team had a narrow escape. Remorseless Brenton and his 3 accomplices were arrested and produced before the court on the following day.
The maniac Brenton espouse anti-immigrant and Islamophobia ideology. Obsessed with Far-Right and Neo-Nazi ideology, he uploaded a 74-paged manifesto describing the Muslim immigrants as a threat to western culture and his motivation for his actions. He was planning this attack for two years and had informed all concerned about his intentions. Inspired by Norwegian Far-Right terrorist Anders Breivik, believing in white supremacy and considering Donald Trump as his hero, his objective was to scare away immigrants in New Zealand. He video-recorded the entire grisly episode.
Morbidity of the wanton slaughter has horrified all and sundry and everyone is describing the killer as a monster. Visibly disturbed PM of New Zealand Jacinda Arden dubbed it as the darkest day. Wearing black clothes, she condoled and consoled the bereaved families and the Muslims in Christchurch. The PM of Australia called the gunman a violent extremist, but failed to call it a ‘terrorist attack’. UNSC held a one-minute silence to express grief. However, Trump initially refused to denounce the carnage and denied that white extremism is the rising threat. On New Zealand PM’s insistence that he should express sympathy for the Muslims, he changed his stance but still didn’t term Brenton a terrorist.
Brenton’s place of origin Australia has a dark history of pursuing repugnant racist migration policies for almost two centuries and where white fascism is scaling new heights. Australia will need to do more to recognize its legacy of racist violence against non-white populations.
This grisly incident is a big slap on the face of the US led western world that has been constantly demonizing Islam and the Muslims and branding them as terrorists. Western leaders have been equating Islam with fascism. It is this fixated mindset which kept the Global War on Terror (GWoT) confined to the Muslim world only.
Tragically, Buddhists kill Muslims in Burma, Christians kill Muslims in Afghanistan, Middle East, Africa and the West, Hindus in Kashmir, Jews in Palestine. Still Muslim is branded a terrorist. If a non-Muslim kills, he is described as a mentally disturbed shooter; if a Muslim kills even in self defence, he is a terrorist. Two set of laws are in vogue in USA and in Europe. White perpetrators of violence are seen as individual acts owing to mental illness. In case of Muslims, violence is explained as clash of civilization and all Muslims and Islam are blamed. Radicalism has been tagged to Islam only.
A German Muslim scholar when asked to give his views on terrorism and Islam, he said: “Who started the 1st world war? Not Muslims!! Who started the 2nd world war? Not Muslims!! Who killed six million Jews in the Holocaust? Not Muslims!! Who killed 20 million Aborigines in Australia? Not Muslims!! Who dropped bombs upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Not Muslims!! Who killed more than 100 million Indians in North America? Not Muslims!! Who killed over 50 million Indians in South America? Not Muslims!! Who took away about 180 million chained African people in ships to USA as slaves and 88% of them died and were thrown overboard into Atlantic Ocean? Not Muslims!!”
The US, Western Europe, Israel and India dub all Muslims as extremists and terrorists without defining terrorism. If a non-Muslim does something bad, it is crime. If a Muslim commits the same crime, he is termed as a terrorist. They justify demonization of Islam and Muslims under the caption of ‘freedom of expression’. However, Holocaust cannot be doubted or criticized. Rise of racism and fascism in the non-Muslim countries have not been taken seriously. These curses are more rampant in USA, Western Europe, Israel and India. Hatred against Muslims has been systematically injected on the basis of false perceptions and misconceptions about Islam.
Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Spain and UK had voiced serious concern over migration of refugees from Syria and Libya and said it must be stopped. The refugee influx, unprecedented rise of Far-Right parties in Europe, UK’s Brexit and incident of San Bernardino and Paris attacks in 2015 have given a toxic rise to Islamophobia and hate crimes. The Far-Right and well-funded Islamophobic network has espoused blatantly racist ideas. Muslims are seen as the enemy ‘within’. So-called educated elite are in the lead to dehumanize the Muslims. Discriminatory policies such as ban on hijab, veil, and on mosque minarets and restricting freedom of speech and religious practices are in practice.
Islamophobia has become a real danger to the foundations of democratic order and values in Europe. It has also become the main challenge to social peace and co-existence of different cultures, religions, ethnicities in Europe. Everyday life of a Muslim in Europe be it at school, workplace, mosque, transportation or on streets is in constant danger.
Racism is more entrenched in Europe than in USA since it has a colonial history in Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Even after decolonization, racist ideas and practices have persisted. Europe used anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric and blamed them for Europe’s economic woes to make electoral gains in 2010. The British National Party, Wilder’s Party in Holland and Sweden’s Democrats made political gains. The latter gained power on anti-Muslim campaign.
In USA, Islamophobia and orientalism is more recent which gained currency after the 2nd world war when the power of European nations declined and USA emerged as a superpower. Closeness with Israel was another factor. Threat of Islamic fundamentalism was coined after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. Neocons-Likud alliance shaped the Jihadist threat in the 1980s. After the fragmentation of USSR and demise of Communism in 1991, Communism was replaced with Islam as the major threat to the New World Order and Capitalism.
It was in 1990s that Far-Right in USA began to engage with Islamophobia and surged up after 9/11. The American Far-Right collaborated with European Far-Right and both developed a common global counter Jihadist narrative and movement. Crimes against the Muslims in USA, Canada, Australia, UK and Western Europe and now in New Zealand, have risen alarmingly but their crimes have never been labelled as terrorism. Far-Right in Europe has gathered strength because of the weakness of the Left and Centre-Left.
In USA, both the Republicans and democrats have promoted racism, fascism and have supported war on terror. Both have made use of racist policing to help consolidate national security state and promote US imperialism from the era of cold war to the war on terror. 9/11 was a false flag operation and GWoT launched in October 2001 was a cover plan to achieve geo-strategic and geo-economic objectives. George W. Bush Junior initiated the war on terror without defining terrorism. He and his team of neocons coopted NATO, India and Israel and excluded the Christians, Jews and Hindus from terrorism. Their guns were focused against Islam and the Muslims only. Except for North Korea, all the listed targets in the axis of evil were Muslim countries.
Barak Obama further ratcheted up the hatred against Muslim countries. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were targeted on fake charges. Trump has given fillip to the rise in anti-Muslim feelings in the West since he has all along been spewing venom against them. He scapegoated the immigrants to distract attention of American working class from joblessness, lack of healthcare and other social inequities. Corporate media has not only fanned Islamophobia and racism, but also endorsed Trump’s rhetoric on white supremacy. The US security apparatus, hawks in the two political parties, universities and think tanks have also been fueling Islamophobia and promoting gun culture.
In the last 18 years, Muslims have been disliked, hated and brutalized. Several Muslim countries have been destroyed, prosperous cities ruined, millions of Muslims killed, millions widowed, orphaned, crippled and rendered homeless. Marooned people of Syria and Libya were left with no option but to migrate to other countries. They have now become a monstrosity for the Far-Right nationalists in Europe and USA.
The gory game of bloodshed and mayhem was played with the help of hired proxies and puppet Muslim regimes. The world at large let the crusaders kill and maim the Muslims at will, myopically imagining that it will make the world safe and secure. Today, the whole world is turbulent and much more unsafe than what it was prior to 9/11.
The US has used maximum force in Afghanistan but has failed to subdue the Taliban whom they used to call terrorists, but today it is holding direct peace talks with them and bending over backwards to convince them to arrive at a political settlement and let the US troops exit with honor. The US in its quest to seize control of oilfields and to establish Greater Israel by changing the boundaries of Middle East has bloodied the whole region and turned it into a vortex of chaos.
Once ISIS was created by CIA in 2006 in Iraq to fight Al-Qaeda and then was used in Syria to topple Bashar Al- Assad regime, large numbers of white Jihadis veered toward this newly formed caliphate in 2014-2015. Phenomenon of white Jihadis is attributable to rampant gun culture in USA and western countries and arrogant attitude of the elites. Since then, chickens have come home to roost. Terrorism has now seeped into Europe and in USA.
After 9/11, successive regimes in USA have been claiming that terrorism is the major threat to the integrity of USA as well as to global peace. However, the fact is that gun violence pose a much bigger threat to USA than terrorism. Since 2001, 406,496 Americans were killed by guns in USA in comparison to 3380 killed worldwide due to terrorism. In USA, Jihadists killed 45 people since 9/11. All shootings in schools were perpetrated by white men and boys. Ironically when an American Muslim was found involved in San Bernardino, it was quoted to justify launching war on terror and homeland security.
Christchurch tragedy has left the Muslims residing in western countries terrorized and traumatized. It has once again brought to light that terrorism has no religion, color, race or gender and has no boundaries. Instead of focusing only on the Muslim world and blaming Muslims to be solely responsible for terrorism, the US and Europe need to introspect and carryout unbiased appraisal to determine as to who is responsible for triggering terrorism which has spread to every nook and corner of the world. They must admit that the growing threat of Far-Right terrorism has not been taken seriously since their entire attention has remained focused on Islamic radicalism.
Terrorism is the common enemy which needs to be collectively defeated under a well-thought out strategy. It needs an integrated fight and united approach by the whole international community.
If the world is to be made peaceful, and a secure place to live, the US, Israel and India, the three strategic partners in crime and the West will have to do away with double standards and hypocrisy. They must change their policy of violence and injustice, and instead take the path of peace. While the bloody war on terror must end, Islamophobia must be replaced with policy of co-existence, inter-faith harmony and amiability.
The US and the West must recognize the growing threat of Far-Right, racism and fascism, and initiate steps to eradicate these menaces at the earliest. The gun culture must be radically reformed. The two oldest disputes – Palestine and Kashmir – are probably the root cause of growth of extremism in the Muslim world. These must be speedily resolved.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist and author of five books. He is Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS, and Member Council TJP. [email protected]