By Ekram Haque
The death toll from the Christchurch, NZ massacre has now risen to 51 with scores remaining in critical condition. The irony of the mosque massacre in a city named after Christ and perpetrated by a Christian is self-evident. Jesus told his disciples to “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” The terrorist who mowed down 51 Muslim worshipers hated his neighbors because they had a different skin color than he.
But the New Zealand terrorist’s actions are only a symptom of a deeper problem, and why we should confront the hate industry that promotes white nationalism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and fear of immigrants. This group includes politicians, conservative think tanks, media personalities, and well-financed Islamophobia groups.
Research data show white-supremacy-driven violence in the US and Europe sharply increased in the last two years. Sadly, President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric is partly to blame for its increase and globalization.
The president has likened immigration to an infestation, described Mexican immigrants rapists, falsely claimed Middle Easterners were coming into the US embedded in the migrant caravan from the South, claimed “Islam hates us,” and criticized German Chancellor Angel Merkel for taking in a million Muslim refugees and called it a “big mistake.” He has claimed refugees and migrants had “changed the fabric of Europe — and unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was.”
Speaking after the Christchurch tragedy, Trump made light of the white nationalists’ threat, and said, “It’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.” To rub salt to the wounds of victims’ families, the president did not unequivocally condemn the rise of white terrorism nor acknowledge those killed were Muslims. Had the perpetrator been a Muslim, he would have had a field day condemning it.
Not surprisingly, Christchurch mass murderer had words of praise for Trump, calling him “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Trump failed to reject this image of himself.
The murderous rampage from Charlottesville to Quebec, and from Charleston to Pittsburgh to Christchurch, is rooted in an ideology of whites’ inherent superiority and entitlement to the reins of power. It theorizes, like Hitler did, that to allow non-whites, Muslims, and Jews to live among whites would dilute their racial purity.
We urgently need honest conversation about immigration and white nationalism. The lands that white nationalists claim as their inheritance, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America as well as Brazil, were historically inhabited by non-whites. Native Americans and aborigines were living in these places hundreds of years before the white immigrants arrived.
President Trump’s jailing and dehumanization of immigrants and asylum seekers mocks his own past. His mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was an immigrant from Scotland, and two of his three wives, including the First Lady Melania Trump, are immigrants from Eastern Europe. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and the rest of the founders were descendants of European settlers in this land.
The threat of right-wing white nationalist terror is lurking in the shadows, and the local and national law enforcement agencies need to prioritize their resources to deal with it.
Last year, three white terrorists were convicted of plotting to bomb Somali refugees in Kansas. And in February, Federal agents arrested a coast guard lieutenant, who was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.” According to CBS, “the FBI has about 900 active domestic terrorism cases and that includes cases tied to white supremacists.”
People like the Norwegian white terrorist, who shot and killed 77 people in 2011, and the Christchurch perpetrator have one thing in common: their hatred of non-whites.
Since President Trump has refused to even acknowledge the seriousness of the threat white terrorists pose, Congress should hold an urgent hearing on this matter and make public the relevant data federal intelligence agencies have collected about the dangers of white nationalism.
The media should treat white nationalist terrorism on the same footing as those driven by other groups, including ISIS. Currently, “terror attacks by Muslims receive an average of 357 percent more media coverage than those by other groups.”
Media outlets must be vigilant about their role in perpetuating a culture of hate against minorities.
Companies like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media have a responsibility to prevent their platforms from being weaponized to plot, publicize and commit mass murder.
Ekram Haque is Executive Director for the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He is the author of Muhammad: Son of Abraham, Brother of Moses, Successor of Jesus; The Radiant Lamp; and Powered by Hope, Optimism, and Positivity.