On the 15th of March 2019, the Australasian 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant opened fire on worshippers at two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 and injuring 50 others in a brutal terrorist attack denounced by the entire world. Even though people far and wide responded and expressed their sympathy with the victims of this crisis, what is more important right now is to derive lessons from this terrorist attack so that we could develop a manifesto for combating extremism.
Drawing on the international and local responses to this heinous terrorist attack, we conclude three points that may help in combating and eliminating extremism and hate speech, namely: - the creation of an international unified front, the promotion of community solidarity and the social action against promoters of hate speech, as well as the official responsive and precautionary measures taken by governments.
The world leaders, public figures, cultural, intellectual, religious dignitaries undoubtedly have significant impact on ordinary people. Therefore, their influence should be employed to alleviate the state of tension among followers of different religions and end the state of xenophobia and hatred. Expressing their sympathy with the families of the victims, and Muslims in general, most of the international leaders strongly condemned this terrorist attack. Yet, a step forward should be taken to form a unified international front for fighting all forms of extremism. New international policies and laws are to be proposed and enacted in this respect in order not to let the promoters of hatred and instability win the floor and spread their sinister thought.
The second point has to do with the responsibility of the community towards the promoters of hate speech. The New Zealand attack revealed a very remarkable event when the egg boy, William Connolly, cracked an egg on the back of the head of Australian Senator Fraser Anning who blamed Muslims themselves for the attack. The reaction of the boy united the entire Australian nation against Anning’s rhetoric and mobilized the international opinion against hate speech. Although the egg boy’s action was not the right thing, as confessed by the boy himself later in an interview, it was an inspiring moment which emphasized that the majority of people denounce hate speech. This proves that people may, and even should, play a great and decisive role in making the plans and plots of the hate speech promoters prove futile.
As for the promotion of community solidarity, the New Zealand people showed a great deal of sympathy and proved that they all are unified against the racist ideology and thought. New Zealand women, for example, made an initiative to wear headscarf which resembles Islamic hijab to show solidarity with Muslims in order to make them feel safe after the terror attack on the two mosques. This campaign was organized under the slogan "Head Scarf for Harmony", which shows that community solidarity plays an essential role in combating extremism.
Thirdly, the official response of the New Zealand government and prime minister can be cited as a textbook approach for responding to crises. In her first comment after the terror attack, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, stated that “this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. In this way, she affirmed that all New Zealanders are unified in the face of the enemy threatening the fabric of society by fueling division and hatred among people. Furthermore, she clearly and emphatically expressed her sympathy with the victims, and strongly condemned the terror attack and its perpetrator. On the government level, new laws on the ownership and use of weapons were enacted in order to eliminate the threats of using them in other attacks. The families of the victims were also financially and spiritually supported. In solidarity with Muslims, the Islamic Friday congregational prayer of 22 March 2019 was attended by a large number of non-Muslim New Zealanders and aired live on TV and the New Zealand Parliament opened its session with recitation of some verses from the Qur’an, Muslims' Sacred Book.
In fact, the New Zealand response to this terror attack can be relied on in developing a strategy or an overall approach for combating extremist thought and violence of the far right fanatics.