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Christchurch terror
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 14 - 03 - 2019

The massacre by a white supremacist terrorist of 50 Muslim immigrants in New Zealand while they performed Friday prayers in two mosques a week ago was the latest warning sign on how dangerous the world has become with the spread of a culture of hate and recklessness with regard to human life.
It proves, once again, that terrorism does not belong to a certain religion or culture; it is a plague that poses a threat to all humanity. However, this is not the time to lay blame or exchange accusations on who is responsible for reaching this point. It is time to act collectively to stop this steep downfall towards a widescale war among the world's religions, cultures and varied ethnicities.
A serious and immediate discussion is also required on how to stop abuse of social media networks by terrorist groups, both in terms of spreading the culture of hate and killing, and gaining access to the means of killing innocent people. The attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand were the first ever to be broadcast live on the most popular social network, Facebook. There must be a way to stop this kind of practice, even if what's needed is to develop a new technology that allows prescreening of whatever is being broadcast live on social media.
At one point in human history not so long ago, the general rhetoric among world leaders was to advocate for multicultural values, diversity and coexistence over exclusion and rejection of the “other”. Right now, the rising trend all over the world is isolationism and populist, right-wing extremism that claims the superiority of certain cultures or ethnicities.
Here in Egypt, the country's leadership has made confronting terrorism and extremist ideas a top priority, not just through security means, but equally through religious reform and calls for equality among all world religions and the right to freedom of worship.
Now, and in light of the horrific, indiscriminate killings of Muslims in Christchurch, similar efforts are needed in Europe, the United States and other countries that only saw one source for violence and extremism: Islam.
There were many warning signs before, but they were disregarded and treated like isolated incidents that posed no serious threat. This was true in Quebec, when Muslims were gunned down in their mosque in 2017. It was true in Pittsburgh, when Jews were murdered in their synagogue in 2018 by a right-wing extremist. It was true in Norway, when 77 people were killed in 2011 Anders Breivik, a white bigot. It was true in Charleston, when black churchgoers were mowed down by another radicalised white man, Dylann Roof.
A manifesto linked to the New Zealand terrorist killer, released through his social media account on the morning of the massacre, suggests its author considered himself a disciple and comrade of the abovementioned white supremacist killers. However, the terrorist, Brenton Tarrant, also hailed US President Donald Trump, calling him “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”.
Amid such a growing culture of hate, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won praise worldwide because she minced no words and swiftly labelled the cowardly act of collective killing in Christchurch what it was: terrorism. Ardern also bluntly called an Australian lawmaker's suggestion of a link between Muslim immigration and violence “a disgrace”.
When she went to Christchurch on Saturday, the day after the attacks, Ardern visited members of the refugee and Muslim community. Dressed in black and wearing a Muslim-style hijab, she tearfully told them that the whole country was “united in grief”. Many people also praised her pledge to cover the funeral costs of all 50 victims and offer financial assistance to the families, as well as her swift action on gun control in New Zealand.
The Christchurch massacre highlighted the contagious ways in which extreme rightwing ideology and violence have spread in the 21st century — even to a country that had not experienced a mass shooting before, and which is rarely associated with the extreme right.
New Zealand may be thousands of miles from Europe or the United States, but videos of the killer show that he was deeply entrenched in the global far right from across Europe, Australia and North America, as well as a native of the extreme-right communities online.
The real danger that these parts of the world must now admit, and confront, is that the ideas expressed in his manifesto are widely shared beyond the fanatic fringe, and are close to the mainstream in many parts of Europe and the United States.
A pathology of hatred has spread around the world and it has put all our lives at risk.


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