One wonders will the world’s political leaders assemble in Christchurch, New Zealand, in solidarity with the victims of the horrific mosque killings last Friday as they did in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris in January 2015?
Or would such a gesture be less likely given the extent of complicity of so many political leaders in the rise in Islamophobia and hate crime against Muslims which no doubt inspired the killer?
Donald Trump castigated Muslims many times while campaigning for the presidency calling them among other things “sick people”.
As president he noted the ‘fine people’ among the alt-right protest in Charlottesville, one of whom drove over and killed a counter protester.
He has introduced a ban on immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries. Having surrounded himself with anti-Muslim senior advisors his actions and utterances have effectively authorised discrimination and violent attacks against Muslims in the US.
Parts of Europe are not so different. The former British Foreign Minister, Borris Johnson, insultingly compared veiled Muslim women to “post-boxes and bank robbers”.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has referred to “Europe being overrun” by refugees fleeing war, calling them “Muslim invaders” threatening Europe’s “Christian identity”.
In Austria the Government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a coalition with the right-wing populist Freedom Party, which was founded in 1956 by a former Nazi party member and SS officer, has banned the Muslim face veil for women and closed seven mosques.
In Australia, soon after the Christchurch killings, Senator Fraser Anning termed them “violent vigilantism” and blamed “Muslim immigration”. Thankfully an online petition calling for Anning’s expulsion from parliament has received more than one million signatures.
All of this right-wing populist rhetoric by political leaders has unquestionably led to an increase in hate crime and Islamophobia and the rise of nationalist supremacy, a threat that more moderate governments and the mainstream media are too often in denial about.
These political leaders should stay away from Christchurch and instead hang their heads in shame. Ordinary citizens can however show the way by standing in solidarity with our bereaved Muslim brothers and sisters at this time, by helping refugees and campaigning against the rise of nationalist supremacy and for inclusivity, solidarity, peace and an end to divisive wars.
- Jim Roche
PRO Irish Anti-War Movement