Name the white supremacist killers of Muslims

Name the white supremacist killers of Muslims
Comment: It's time for Islamophobes the world over to take responsibility for their hateful rhetoric, writes Ali M Latifi.
6 min read
15 Mar, 2019
Dozens of worshippers were shot by Brenton Tarrant [TVNZ/AFP]

On Friday, March 15, dozens of Muslim worshippers - including young children - entered two New Zealand mosques for the Friday prayer. 

For at least 49 of them, it would be the last Friday prayer they would ever attend. The mosques became the target of a coordinated terrorist attack, involving at least one shooter, an online live stream, vehicles packed with improvised explosive devices and three additional suspects.

A day of prayer and remembrance of God had turned into a massacre in a country where Muslims make up just one percent of the total population and mass shootings are extremely rare. New Zealand hasn't seen anything like this since November 1990, when a gunman killed 13 people.

In the aftermath of the killings, Donald Trump Jr took to his family's favorite medium to give his own reaction.

"Don't give the POS NZ shooter what he wants. Don't speak his name don't show the footage. Seems that most agree on that. The questions is can the media do what's right and pass up the ratings they'll get by doing the opposite? I fear we all know the answer unfortunately," he tweeted.

As a Muslim I can say without a doubt that Trump is wrong. Everyone involved in this heinous murder deserves to be known the world over. The shooter's name is Brenton Tarrant.

They deserve to be known because for too long, too many high-profile people - including Trump's own father - have gotten away with normalising Islamophobic and anti-Muslim speech which inspires and empowers violent extremists, all while denying that Islamophobia even exists.

In the past three years, Trump the elder has said "I think Islam hates us", considered the re-instatement of a Bush-era registry that targets Muslims in the US, called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", created three Muslim travel bans, and publicly stated that he wants "surveillance of these people … surveillance of certain mosques".

That last one is important, because it was two mosques, two places of worship, that were targeted in the Christchurch murders. The fact that the killers chose Friday, the Muslim holy day, when entire communities gather at their local mosques, was no coincidence.

The deliberate choice of time and location should leave no doubt that this was not only a terrorist act, but a hate crime, and hate crimes are emboldened by rhetoric.

Last year the FBI reported that hate crimes in the US increased every year from 2015-2017. In 2017, anti-Muslim hate crimes accounted for nearly 20 percent of faith-based acts of violence and intimidation in the United States.

According to researchers at the University of Warwick, it is no coincidence that anti-Muslim hate crimes have surged since Trump began his presidential bid in 2015. 

"Trump's Tweets on Islam-related topics are highly correlated with anti-Muslim hate crime," in counties with high Twitter usage, reported Karsten Müller (Princeton University) and Carlo Schwarz (University of Warwick) in their 2018 report, Making America Hate Again? Twitter and Hate Crime Under Trump.

This is why it's important that the perpetrators, along with their actions and their intentions, be known to the world, because the result of such hate is not just violence and death, but deliberately targeted violence and murder.

It's not just Trump, though.

In 2007, Sam Harris - a noted atheist who has been given platforms by TED, YouTube, and WIRED - wrote in Foreign Policy magazine: "It is time we admitted that we are not at war with 'terrorism'. We are at war with Islam. This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran. The only reason Muslim fundamentalism is a threat to us is because the fundamentals of Islam are a threat to us."

Harris has so far stayed quiet on the New Zealand attack.

In a 2014 video, Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator, said: "We're above 800 million Muslims radicalized, more than half the Muslims on Earth… That's not a minority. That's now a majority."

That video has so far been seen by more than three million people, earning at least 109,000 "thumbs up" on YouTube.

As an Afghan, a Muslim and a journalist, both Harris and Shapiro's words are infuriating. After 9/11 - the last time anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked in the US - I saw friends in California have to carry weapons and learn to fight to protect themselves against the hate, violence and rhetoric that was directed at us.

In the past six years of living and working in Afghanistan and Turkey, I've had to sit with Muslim families whose children, parents and friends were killed by other so-called Muslims. I've seen people afraid to go outside in Kabul, Istanbul, Jalalabad and Gaziantep for fear of attack by the very kinds of people Harris and Shapiro claim to warn non-Muslims of.

I've sat and listened to the stories of hundreds of refugees in Greece and Turkey who are hoping to flee the very wars the interventionist policies of people such as Trump, Harris and Shapiro have led to, many of whom were turned away from European nations involved in those very wars and deported back into active conflicts.

The truth is, it's Muslims who are suffering at the hands of groups like the Islamic State group, the Taliban and Boko Haram and it's Muslims who are suffering at the hands of Islamophobic killers.

Shortly after news of the shootings broke, Shapiro, that same man who used faulty maths and questionable logic to accuse hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world of being "radicalised" put out a tweet that was oddly similar to Donald Trump Jr's.

"Do not share the shooter's name.
Do not share the shooter's evil video.
Do not share the shooter's evil manifesto.
Mass killers desire fame and attention. Starve them of it"

Shapiro also retweeted shows of support for the victims.

Of course mass murderers seek to be anti-heroes. They want the notoriety of their crimes to inspire others. They list implausible motivations in their manifestos and shout stupid things to encourage a media obsessed with poring over every detail of an attack to sow more seeds of division and entrench hatred.

For this reason, in an ideal world, no "terrorist" should ever be named. But if you're going to name every Mohamed and Omar who kills, forensically examining every element of their background, but then gloss over the identities of murderers named John or Brenton - then you're only helping the white supremacists.

It's time for Islamophobes the world over to take responsibility for their hateful rhetoric. 

While more than one billion Muslims are always expected to condemn any violent act committed by another Muslim, Islamophobes are enjoying the privilege of acting like the moral authority, dictating to Muslims (and non-Muslims) how they should react to a deliberate attack on their people.

Except this time, their moralising is aiding and abetting the murderers in covering up not only their deliberate killing of worshippers, but of the ideology that would lead them to commit such an attack - an ideology that is stoked by words they themselves have said and written for years now.

So, don't listen to Trump, Shapiro or anyone else who wants us to somehow shield the perpetrators from global notoriety.

Say their names. Repeatedly. List their crimes. In detail. Name their victims. One-by-one. Make sure that no-one ever forgets the cost of Islamophobia: violence, intimidation and death.

The Islamophobes don't want us to talk about the attackers, as doing so would only expose what their words lead to.

Speak up, and speak out, because if you don't, the Islamophobes will.

Ali M Latifi is a Kabul-based freelance journalist. He has reported from Afghanistan, Qatar, Turkey, Greece and Washington, DC.

Follow him on Twitter: @alibomaye

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.