Two days ago I wrote a shaken post about my feelings regarding the Christchurch shooting. A few people have taken issue with things I said in that post, but I am not going to delete or edit it - if 50 people had just been murdered in your country, in a city you knew and loved, by a psychopath/terrorist, you'd have a few strong things to say about it too, I assure you!
The last two days have brought a higher death toll, the first charges against the terrorist, and support from the world as Christchurch and New Zealand begin to come to terms with what had happened. I have been especially proud of Prime Minster Jacinda Arden's response and salute those Australian Muslims who made the decision to board planes and fly to New Zealand to assist their brothers and sisters (in religion or otherwise) to give those murdered on Friday burials according to their beliefs and customs.
Sadly, the responses of other leaders around the world, from Australia to the US, have been less heartening than Ms. Ardern's. The so-called 'Leader Of The Free World' (who gave the US that title, again?), Mr. Donald Trump thought an appropriate response to this atrocity was to tweet 'We love New Zealand!', after a phone call with Ms. Ardern in which she requested from him and his country only 'sympathy and love for all Muslim communities'. But, then again, I don't think we expected anything better from Mr. Trump.
Another rather bumbling politician on the scene is Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (more on him shortly) who, while rightly calling the attack for what it was: terrorism, spent far more time trying to distance Australia and Australians from the terrorist (I will not say alleged, there is nothing alleged about what this man did) than expression his sympathy for the victims or acknowledging how his own actions and those of his government (and governments preceding it) contributed to the horrific events of Friday.
The terrorist was born and bred in Australia, he travelled, he got radicalised, he posted vile things in equally vile online groups and, on Friday, he murdered fifty innocent people, injured almost fifty more, all of them Muslims and all of them New Zealanders.
Is he representative of the Australian people? I don't believe he is, although I will say that Australia has some of the worst examples of Islamophobia and white supremacist extremism, and it's not just in back alleys, far-right rallys, or online chatrooms on the dark web. It's in our schools, it's in our communities, it's even in our government.
While Australia's current PM has spoken out against these attacks, I find myself struggling to take him seriously when this is also the man who once said that Islam was 'a disease to be vaccinated'. Another politician speaking out against these attacks was former Prime Minister Mr. Tony Abbott, who called them a terrible atrocity and then became extremely uncomfortable when he was reminded by a reporter that he had once proclaimed, loudly and dismissively, that 'Islamophobia never killed anyone'. His attempts to backtrack - 'I wouldn't say that now, obviously' - were both clumsy and insulting: you were proved wrong, Mr. Abbott, and fifty times at that!
And then there is Fraser Anning. His comments will not be repeated, his mention here will be brief, but I can only say that I hope with all my heart that every Australian who turns out to vote at the election in May puts him at the bottom of their preferences. This man has no place in our parliament, no place in our government and is a disgrace to this country. There is a 1,000,000-signature strong petition on change.org to have him removed from parliament (unfortunately this is impossible under Australian law, but it is the sentiment that is important here) and it can be hoped that those 1,000,000 people have their say in the federal election in May, when Anning will be up for re-election. I will also say that I have nothing but the greatest respect for the young man who exercised his freedoms to egg Anning at a recent far-right rally, and that I hope Anning and the thugs who held this young man in a headlock and pinned him down while their fellows kicked him are all charged with assault.
Another politician who has been leading the Islamophobic charge is Pauline Hanson, who reemerged from the political wilderness to find herself once again with a platform from which her despicable excuse for a political party can spew over the rest of us. But where the views she has espoused regarding Islam, immigration, terrorism, refugees and other topics about which she knows nothing were once just far-right ramblings, it is important to see them now in a broader context. As Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rightly said 'not all right-wing extremist hate speech ends in violence, but all right-wing extremist violence begins in hate speech.'
Bill Shorten and the Labour Party and certainly not without blame in this area either, and Labour Governments have been filled with just as much anti-immigration and anti-Islam rhetoric as the current Liberal one. With an election coming up, Labour has engaged in many a dirty tactic and refugees and asylum seekers - many of them from Muslim majority countries - have once again become a political football as each party competes to see who can promise 'the toughest borders' (I find this ironic, given we live on a giant, f***ing island, which means borders are imaginary lines drawn on the shifting sea).
And there is one who, among all those shouting from Canberra, has been oddly silent, and that silence has been especially telling. I am speaking, of course, of the Australian Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton. He broke his silence only today to condemn Fraser Anning's comments, while simultaneously stating that 'the extremist left were just as bad'. Anning blamed fifty dead people for their own murders, the left has its faults and its extremists (all sides of politics do) but it doesn't go around blaming murder on the murdered.
As Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Dutton has never shied away from giving his views on anything with the slightest connection to 'border control'. From stripping Australian Daesh fighters of their citizenship, to denying hard-working, contributing immigrants visas and attempting to deport them in the middle of the night, while simultaneously using his power and influence to benefit his friends and enrich himself, this is not a man who has ever been silent on anything. His Islamophobic rhetoric stretches back to his days as Immigration Minister, before the Ministry of Home Affairs was created, and he has often used the words 'terrorist' and 'Muslim' interchangeably and has said that Australia's focus must be on combating 'extremist, Islamist terrorism'. Never mind that the words 'terrorist' and 'Muslim' have nothing in common, he hasn't acknowledged any kind of terror except that inflicted by Daesh and others of their ilk who, to the best of my knowledge, are about as Muslim as Westpro Baptists are Christian: not at all.
If these are the statements made by Australian leaders - openly, publicly, and with no accountability - then is it any wonder that an Australian committed these atrocities? As Waled Aly put it in the days after the attack 'it came as no shock' that the Muslim community was targeted. They have been targets since the September 11 attacks in 2001, attacks that were committed by a terrorist group who killed far more Muslims on their own soil than they did Westerners on Western soil. This is true for all terrorist organisations based in Muslim-majority countries who claim to be Islamic themselves. More innocent Muslims die at their hand - brutally, with their murders made publicly available via the internet - than Westerns do in terror attacks committed by these groups on foreign soil. Those same people fleeing horrors many in Western countries could not conceive of in their worst nightmares arrive on our shores to be branded with the same name as the very people they fled. Please get your head around that!
Terrorists, regardless of their proclaimed faith, creed, colour, belief or motivation, are terrorists. They commit atrocities against innocents, they murder, maim, rape and destroy. They desecrate cultures and smear entire religions with their filth and many Westerners assist them in their mission - knowingly or otherwise. These people strive to divide, to conquer, to create hate, when you suggest that a Muslim immigrant - refugee or otherwise - might be a terrorist simply because of their religion you are creating a win for the terrorists. You are giving them what they want.
So the buck has to stop here.
Right-wing terror attacks have been on the rise in recent years: the USA, England, Spain, France, Norway and now New Zealand have all seen deadly terror attacks perpetuated by right-wing extremists against innocent Muslims. Western leaders continue to vilify Islam and the Islamic people and then refuse to accept that some responsibility for the atrocities committed lies with them. We cannot allow it to continue.
It is time for leaders to be leaders, it is time we stopped calling hate speech free speech, it is time for we the people to stand up and demand better. Protest, petition, shout, blog and most of all VOTE with the voice you have been given. We cannot ignore the terrible reality of right-wing terror any longer, no more it is the stuff of shadowy, dark-web chatrooms, it has become a shameful part of mainstream political and public discourse and it must not be allowed to continue. Fifty innocent people paid the ultimate price on Friday for the lack of will to acknowledge right-wing terror as the threat it is. We must now be their voice and ensure they do not simply become statistics of a growing problem the West desperately wants to ignore.
In closing, I repeat Mr. Ardern's words regarding this event, so different from those of other Western leaders who are still struggling with the truth that 'one of us' could be a terrorist.
Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many this may not have been the place they were born, in fact for many New Zealand was their choice, the place they actively came to and committed themselves to, the place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities that they loved and who loved them, it was a place that many came to for its safety, a place where they were free to practise their culture and their religion.
I am a New Zealander, so are they.
This is not who we are.
You don't have to like me. I'm not a Facebook post.
Me With No Apologies.