By Morak Babajide-Alabi
To describe what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand two Fridays ago as annihilation won’t be far from the thought of the terrorist. It was a massacre of 50 people who happened to be in the path of a deranged man with warped ideology. The event shook the world and brought uncontrollable tears to the eyes of many people.
Just as the people of Christchurch, the world is shocked at the terror that was visited on this sleepy city. It is not every day that you hear Christchurch in the news, as the last major news event about the city was the 2011 earthquake. This brought much damage and many casualties.
The terrorist attack on two mosques in the city has paled into insignificance the natural disaster of 2011. This terror attack has taken away the innocence of a country that is usually described as one of the safest in the world. The scale had been mind-boggling and unimaginable. The effect has rippled through the city, the country and the world.
It was a shock as the reality of a terrorist attack on the doorsteps of residents of Christchurch was the “Breaking News” on every media channel all over the world. For the residents, this was a trauma as they never imagined terror could visit their “homes”, not to talk of the size it had come.
Many are yet to get over the attacks that the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as one of the country’s “darkest days”. There was no need for a search. There was no wait for a shadowy group to claim responsibility for the attack. It unfolded right in the eyes of the whole world. It was easy to know the identity of the terrorist.
The terrorist was Bretton Tarrant, a 28-year old Australian. He killed 50 innocent and defenceless people and wounded several at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques. Their only offence was that they were Muslims who had gone to offers prayers in buildings that were supposed to be the safest where they can commune with their maker. Tarrant has been charged with murder over the killing of the 50 people and was remanded without a plea. He is due back in court on April 5.
The terrorist had planned every of his move and ensured that they were transmitted live to all corners of the world. The social media platform, Facebook, was his choice to show the world what evil he was capable of doing. He knows Facebook was free and easy to reach millions with his far-right, Islamaphobia and racists thoughts.
The 17-minutes live feed of the rampage was watched by over 200 people. These were users who subscribed to the Facebook page of the terrorist. This explains why, rather than report the feed to the social media owners; they enjoyed as they watch the evil unfold. They could not afford to take their eyes off the screen so they don’t miss any action. But they were quick to share the clip immediately the live feed ended. The clip which went viral within minutes has been seen at every corner of the world. Fortunately for the terrorist and unfortunately for families of the victims and millions of people traumatised by the clip, the social media operators were too deep in sleep.
For minutes the world was hooked on to terror in a dimension never seen before. It was too graphic to be real, many thought as they watch. It took a while to sink into the consciousness of some as they watched the deranged man shoot defenceless people. Some momentarily thought they were watching a clip from a yet to be released blockbuster.
The world watched as Tarrant gunned down the man who welcomed him with love to the Al Noor mosque. This innocence in the “muted” voice and action of the man is heartbreaking as he said, “hello brother”. Tarrant must have been enraged further by the welcoming disposition of one of the “invaders” of the west – the Muslims.
No time is perfect for murder or killings but this individual chose the holy day of the week for Muslims to carry out his horrendous act. He timed his actions to precision. As the Muslims in Christchurch were picking up their Korans in reparation for the Friday prayers, the terrorist also assembled his arsenal. As they reached for their rosaries to walk or drive out to the places of worship, the evil man got his gears in place. While they do their ablutions he loaded the bullets in his guns and unloaded on them.
The victims and the terrorist were in two worlds, but unfortunately in the same space – New Zealand. The innocent victims had trooped to the mosques to commune with their makers. This is a need for faith. The thought of an attack did not come to their minds, not especially in a peaceful country like New Zealand. Unfortunately, the thoughts of the terrorist were far from theirs. His was to maim, kill and cause as much havoc to as many people who have congregated in a peaceful and defenceless atmosphere.
The event has revealed that there is so much evil in this world. The thoughts of human beings are becoming extremely wicked to each other. The scale at which these evil thoughts are finding expression in the world is troubling. Despite how damaging these thoughts are to the world, selfish individuals in positions of authorities are promoting them.
An Australian senator, Frase Anning, is one of the people who has unabashedly believed that immigration should be a basis for hatred. He could not restrain himself as he said: “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.” How does anyone justify this type of hate?
But this is the reality of the time we live in. From the United States of America to the United Kingdom, to Turkey and many far-flung places, it is now fashionable to be far right and racist. The hatred of people of other races, religions etc. is promoted as being far-right and acceptable in society. The support of these types of ideologies, passively or actively, is what gives individuals such as Tarrant the courage to see themselves as the messiah of their races or faith.
These individuals can only be stopped when the world is united and a definite stand is taken against these ideologues and their backers. Leaders must be seen working to prevent and not supporting future occurrences of attacks such as this. The New Zealand PM has shown the world what it should be. She has shown herself as a shining star that other leaders should emulate. Rather than pamper to the ideologies or support of the far-right groups or extremists, she took the necessary step to prevent, or descale a repeat occurrence.
She did not mince her words as she said the terrorist attack has mandated a change in the gun law of the country. Tarrant had bought the guns he used to kill his victims online. The PM said: “Every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned.”
Are the lawmakers in the United States of America taking notes on how to respond to emergencies and act responsibly? Or are they sticking to their archaic gun laws?
As written for the DIASPORA MATTERS column, Sunday Vanguard March 24, 2019.