The Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI) through this medium expresses it sadness over the Christchurch terrorist attacks by a terrorist band of white supremacists led by a 28 year old now identified as Brenton Tarrant who opened fire on two community mosques in the heart of Christchurch city, New Zealand killing a total of 49 Muslim worshippers and wounding many more.
The horrendous act is a new high in the growing trend of Islamophobia across Euro-America buoyed by fascist posture and irredentist policies such as Trump’s American ban on Muslims as well as a couple of white supremacist advances into the mainstream of political thoughts in Europe.
The self-filming terrorist who afforded the world of the horror of his act alluded to being inspired by Trump as ‘a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’ in one of his tweets.
He claimed he was fighting against migration which, in white supremacist ideology constitutes not just an economic threat but as well, a threat to the doctrine of ‘racial purity’ which cast the intermingling of races as signaling the extinction of the white people in their self-conceited peculiarities.
To these white supremacist Christian terrorists, it does not matter whether Muslims are just one percent of the population or whether New Zealand itself is a migrant country purged of its original inhabitants by centuries of Europe’s outward expansion, domination and subsequent colonization.
Migration itself, with the phenomenal leap it has gained in recent time has its root cause still in the same idea of the supremacy of a race and the subjugation of the entire world to the whims of power centers which have white people as dominant hegemons or gladiators.
The Christchurch terrorists are unable to think beyond the immediate; that the exodus and migration into Europe, of Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans and other nationals from the Middle East and Africa where Western nations have forcefully carried out regime change lay at the heart of the problem.
In fact, as we speak the United States is in the process of breaking the back of another nation – Venezuela- and bending it to its wills through the forceful pronouncement of an opposition candidate who neither won an election nor was chosen in any referendum, as the president of sanctions-triggered interim situation to midwife a new election! That country is currently in tatters.
The greed by Western countries and their leaders to control everything lying between the sun and the earth continues to produce failing, failed and torn states with incessant manufacturing of human tragedies such as wars, hunger, devastation, diseases and of course migration – the only ‘exportable’ misery among the lots.
Right wing terrorist attacks propelled by Islamophobia are not new and have been on the increase.
On May 31, 2017 at Portland Train station, a man identified as Jeremy Joseph Christian, killed two other men (Ricky John Best, 53 and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23 who came to the rescue of a woman in hijab from his attack.
In February 2015, three young Muslim students (Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu Salha 21, and Razan Abu Salha, 19) of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Campus were shot dead by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, ostensibly over a parking row, interestingly, the news did not make headlines in any of the US media until three days after.
And on July 22, 2011, Andreas Breivik murdered over 80 souls majority of whom were children on holiday in Oslo Norway. All of these killings have been motivated by Islamophobia and the world continues to look on.
Islamophobia is also manifest in the denial of empathy to Muslim populations where they suffer from injustice and brutal repression such as in Myanmar, Xinjiang in China and Palestine under Israeli occupation.
Back home in Nigeria, Muslims continue to be at the receiving end of a home grown type of Islamophobia with a section of the media found culpable in the frenzy. When the news of the Christchurch terror attacks broke out, we tried checking online how the Nigerian press would react to it.
Kudos must be given to The Guardian newspaper which kept faith with the humane ethics of the pen profession by giving the news prominent coverage. However, the one which claimed to be the widest circulating newspaper refused to headline it: we were not surprised.
The truth about Islamophobia in Nigeria is that it is approaching a crescendo that needs greater checks by the authorities. The initial stages of the phenomenon such as the forceful denial of the right of the Muslim female or girl child to wear the hijab, subjecting them to ridicule and physical assaults, jeopardising their access to educational pursuit through subterfuges as happened to Firdaus Amasah or fixing critical examination periods to days and times that are certain the Muslim students would miss, have been fast transcended.
The next stage between that and the Christchurch stage is where we are now with deep hate speeches and articles deliberately profiling Muslims for attack in any eventuality, with proliferation of instances.
A prominent pastor known for his ownership of multiple private jets in the heydays of Jonathan’s government, had called for the killing of Muslims by literally telling his congregants to kill anybody they see with a particular type of dressing worn mostly by Muslims.
Perhaps the Berom youth who would later murder Major General Alkali (and who had been waylaying and murdering Muslims passing through the Plateau/Benue axis and dumping their bodies in dams) were probably obeying the ‘directives’ of this Lagos based pastor.
There was also a Bosun Emmanuel who ordered similar action in a tape that went viral at a time such that it took the disclaimer of another Lagos based elder pastor to dampen the outbursts generated by Bosun’s call. As we speak, Pastor Bosun is still very active in the trade of religious bigotry and hatred.
While Shekau of Boko Haram did his call for carnage on humanity from the forest of Zambisa, Bosun has been doing his own from the pulpits in cosmopolitan places and in semi-officious manner.
Likewise in the recently concluded elections where some so-called men of God told of what they heard from their God?, that the President would die or must die if at all he dares to contest for re-election.
All of these are dots that connect a growing Islamophobia in Nigeria because not only did the congregants hear of these cursing and death wishes, they mostly chorused ‘amen’ to such demeaning invocation of the Deity. This implies that right there in what ought to be houses of God, a population of haters is being cultivated and hatched right from the pulpits.
With all these going around us as a people, it is high time strong legislations against hate speeches and victimisation on ethnic or religious basis were made, to forestall a drift that the spread of un-curbed hate propagation may lead. While we pray for the repose of the martyrs of the Christchurch terrorist attacks, we also remember the 157 who perished in the Boeing 737 Max aircraft; those in the Lagos building collapse and their families, the victims of the derailed truck in Anambra and others that may not have come to our attention. Indeed it has been a season of deaths and spiteful killings which united the world in grief.
May their souls rest in peace.
By Comrade Yekinni Shakiru A.
Executive Director, Center for Global Peace Initiative (CGPI)