The slaughter of 49 Muslims in Christchurch mosques by a non-Muslim Australian has been widely condemned. But hundreds of thousands of Australians subscribe to the Islamophobic ideas the killer used to justify his massacre. People like him have been encouraged, as the Australian National Imams Council pointed out, because in Australia ‘Islamophobic views are tolerated and, on occasions, supported and promoted, whether directly or indirectly, by public speakers, politicians and media agencies.’
Journalist Mehdi Hasan and Waleed Aly have given examples of politicians and other public figures, not only from the traditional right, both overseas and in Australia inciting anti-Muslim sentiment for personal gain. Voices against Bigotry has documented the consistent exploitation and promotion of Islamophobia by Australia’s Coalition government. One Path Network exposed a relentless anti-Muslim campaign by Newscorp media. With so many powerful voices framing Muslims as a problem, and posing solutions from immigration bans to deportations and internments, this massacre is a logical extension. Those of us trying to counter this narrative have struggled to be heard.
This tragedy is already being spun, as Asim Qureshi argues, to minimise recognition of Muslims as its victims, assert that it is separate from the pervasive, everyday anti-Muslim sentiment in Western countries and to equate it with the terrorism committed by Muslims in the West, when such acts do not enjoy any significant ideological support from either Muslims or non-Muslims.
Neither will non-Muslim ordinary Australians and New Zealanders be made to feel guilty or responsible for these actions. They will not be told to ‘do more’, that they ‘look the other way’, ‘stick their head in the sand’ or should have known the ‘shady character … at the periphery’ was about to commit such an atrocity.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families, friends and the broader Muslim community.