Because I wake up to a clock radio alarm set to BBC Radio 4, I have sadly woken up to shocking news on many occasion. Friday was a particularly horrific instance, with the mosque killings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The news was awful. However, while this attack came out of the blue, I was surprised only by the location. There is so much hatred around in the world, much of it fanned deliberately for political purposes.
Faced with such horrific news, I find that writing things is not only desirable in itself; it also helps you to cope with the pain that you are feeling.
On Friday, I did this as follows:
You can read these below, followed by some supplemental thoughts from me.
As well as re-tweeting others, and using my own tweets to share links to news items, I issued the following tweets on behalf of the Conservative Muslim Forum and the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. I also re-tweeted these accounts myself.
The world is rightly shocked by the anti-Muslim terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.— Cons'tiveMuslimForum (@ConservativeMF) March 15, 2019
The CMF’s prayers go out to the victims and their families.
We should also reflect on how extremist language against a group can radicalise others towards violence.
The world is rightly shocked by the anti-Muslim terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.— Muslim Jewish Forum (@MJF_Manchester) March 15, 2019
The MJF’s prayers go out to the victims and their families.
We should also reflect on how extremist language against a group can radicalise others towards violence.
After running the draft past my fellow CMF Executive Committee members, I posted it on the CMF website page "Mass murder in Christchurch New Zealand".
This morning, Britons awoke to the shocking news that gunmen had opened fire on Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a country widely regarded as one of the safest countries on Earth.
At the time of writing, the death toll stands at 49. Our prayers go out to the victims and their families.
In days to come, much thought will, quite rightly, be given to how such attacks can be dealt with more rapidly, or intercepted before they take place, and how to deal with the evil ideology that appears to have motivated the attacker or attackers.
However, today is a day for mourning, and for quiet reflection on how such unspeakable horrors can emerge from nowhere.
We thank our police force for the extra measures taken today to reassure Muslim worshippers in the UK, and the many politicians and religious leaders who have spoken out following the massacre. If the killers sought to divide Muslims and non-Muslims, they have failed and will continue to fail.
We have embedded below tweets issued this morning by the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi.
"On behalf of the UK, my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence." - PM @theresa_may— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 15, 2019
Profound sympathy for the victims and relatives of the New Zealand terrorism. Let all Christians pray for healing of people, interfaith relations and New Zealand itself. Jesus calls us to welcome strangers and love our neighbour however different.— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) March 15, 2019
There can be few acts of greater evil than the massacre of peaceful people at prayer. The attacks in New Zealand were terrorism of the most despicable kind, callously planned & motivated by the scourge of islamophobia. The victims & their families are in our hearts & our prayers.— Chief Rabbi Mirvis (@chiefrabbi) March 15, 2019
Mohammed Amin MBE is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. He is writing in a personal capacity.
Yesterday, I awoke to the news of the horrific attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The apparent killer posted a manifesto online before commencing his murderous assault on innocent Muslim worshippers.
The attack is a salutary reminder that all terrorists, by definition, believed in something and have a cause. Mass murder driven simply by a personal desire to kill, without any ideological underpinning, is not terrorism as the word is defined.
For example, other Muslims often complain that the 2017 Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was not labelled as a terrorist while the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were, implying that only Muslims get labelled as terrorists. The labelling here is accurate, because the Boston Marathon killers had an ideology they were promoting, while the Las Vegas killer did not.
Sadly, a long line of major terrorist attacks around the world mean that violent Islamist extremism is “front of brain” for almost everybody. If you want to understand this ideology, I recommend reading “The Genealogy of Terror: How to distinguish between Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism” by Matthew L.N. Wilkinson which I review at this link.
The frequency of violent Islamist extremism leads some people to make inaccurate and massively hurtful statements such as “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” Depending on who it is, anyone who says that is either ignorant or being deceitful.
There have been many different motivators for terrorism, often geographically localised such as Irish Republican Army terrorism, Kurdish separatism, and Tamil separatism.
At the non-geographical ideological level, the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was motivated by anti-government beliefs. His beliefs were not the same as the white racism that motivated Dylann Roof to kill black worshippers in a Charlotte church in 2015. Roof’s views may however overlap to some extent with those of Robert Gregory Bowers who has been charged with the 2018 attack on the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue.
The New Zealand killer appears to have anti-Muslim beliefs very similar to those of Anders Behring Breivik, the 2011 killer of young socialists in Norway.
As with violent Islamist extremism, the most immediate requirement is for more physical security and greater intelligence enabling plots to be intercepted and foiled.
However, that is not enough.
The ideological beliefs that are circulating need to be analysed and understood, with de-radicalisation programs being developed that are tailored to the individual ideologies involved. It is superficial to simply label all of them as “far right” without looking at the distinctions between them.
The 1500-page manifesto of Breivik or the 74-page manifesto issued by the apparent New Zealand killer can easily be dismissed as nonsense. They are. However, to prevent people being radicalised by these ideas, we must understand the twisted logic that underlies them.
In the UK the role of the Prevent Programme is critical. As David Cameron said on so many occasions, it is not enough to deal with those attempting to commit acts of terrorism.
One needs to also deal with those who promote the ideas which are absorbed by people and lead people to become terrorists. That is what he meant by dealing with non-violent extremism, a concept often mocked by the extremists and their fellow travellers, but which is explained very precisely in Dr Wilkinson’s book.
The Muslim extremists who contend that Muslims will never be accepted in, for example, Europe exist in a symbiotic relationship with those non-Muslim extremists who contend that Islam is an alien religion that does not belong in Europe. Such Muslims will already be pointing towards the New Zealand attack in order to convince impressionable young Muslims that they will never be accepted here.
The outpouring of support and sympathy that we have seen from political and religious leaders is therefore vital.
Going forward, all politicians and media outlets should reflect on their language. Are they using words that unite people or divide them?
Sadly, all too often in Britain, North America, Australia, and continental Europe one finds politicians promoting divisions within society for electoral gain. They need to be ostracised as Fraser Anning, the Australian Senator, has been for his comments immediately after the shooting.
I have been surprised by a couple of responses to the CMF statement from other Muslims. They were concerned that the CMF statement did not label this as an act of terrorism.
That appears to be an almost totemic need with some Muslims, which I can understand as I explained in my Conservative Home piece above.
However, I believe that an initial statement of condolences should not get into detailed analysis. From the very beginning, the New Zealand government has labelled this as terrorism; quite rightly in view of the killer's clear ideological motivation.
My main supplemental point is that this attack contains messages for everyone in society.
Over the last 30 years, we have allowed the image of our religion to be trashed by Muslim religious extremists, both by their words and even more so by their deeds.
Anti-Muslim bigots have, sadly but understandably, exploited and broadcast the work of the Muslim religious extremists, because it suits their own anti-Muslim agenda. However they could not have done this if the Muslim religious extremists did not exist.
It is up to the rest of us Muslims to drown out the extremists when it comes to speech, and to assist in suppressing them by force when they break the law. Otherwise the image of our religion will continue to decline.
It is worth reading the piece by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, now Lord Sacks, "The hate that starts with Jews never ends there" (published in The Times). I give a short extract below:
"The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. It was not Jews alone who suffered under Hitler and Stalin, nor is it Jews alone suffering from the ruthless pursuit of power that today masquerades as religion. Christians are under assault in more than a hundred countries: put to flight in Syria, driven out of Mosul, removed from Afghanistan, butchered, beheaded and terrorised elsewhere. Hundreds of Muslims are dying daily, 90 per cent at the hands of fellow Muslims. Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs have all suffered their own tragedies. Yazidis are on the brink of the abyss. The world is awash with hate across religious divides."
The same is also true for anti-Muslim hatred.
We have seen in country after country politicians seeking to demonise minorities for political purposes. As well as being wrong in itself, it has the effect of pushing others into violence, as with this killer.
I have been reading his 74-page manifesto, which I am not sharing here because it does not deserve to be spread. As with Muslim hate preachers inspiring violent Islamist extremists, one can see how certain ideas have led this person to believe that he needs to kill Muslim immigrants.
The media marketplace is intensely competitive at present, with the migration of much advertising revenue to the internet, and many people being unwilling to pay for quality news.
One terrible result is that some media outlets have used the demonisation of "out-groups", such as Muslims, as a way of gaining and holding readers. The end result however is to poison our politics.
Prior to the internet and especially social media, the power to publish was limited to organised media outlets. Now everyone with an internet connection can publish their writings and videos to the world. This has facilitated the spread of falsehoods and hatred.
The New Zealand killer live-streamed his murderous attack. (I have not watched any part of it, just as I have always refused to watch any of the bloodthirsty crimes ISIS have posted on the internet.) While Facebook took it down quickly, as of today (Sunday) Facebook have reported that they have had to take down 1.5 million copies of the video which people have downloaded and then attempted to upload.
More than anything else, this illustrates the scale of the challenges we are facing. Action is needed by the electronic media organisations, and if necessary governments must compel them to act.