In 2019, Brenton Tarrant carried out a mass shooting that targeted two mosques in Christchurch, New Zeeland, killing 51 worshipers and wounding 50 others. Such a horrible unprecedented attack was described as the deadliest in New Zealand’s history, as Tarrant used neo-Nazi slogans and broadcast the crime live on social media. He also published a lengthy manifesto entitled “The Great Replacement,” in which he repeatedly asserted his racist and xenophobic motives and his determination to use violence against immigrants, claiming that they are going to steal jobs and replace the white indigenous people of European countries.
“We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history. Millions of people pouring across our borders, legally. Invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce, failed to create the cheap labour, new consumers and tax base that the corporations and states need to thrive”, The Great Replacement reads. In addition, Tarrant calls to take revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history.
Before the third anniversary of the Christchurch attacks, a similar was repeated when the white supremacist Payton Gendron made his way to open fire at a Tops Friendly Supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people, mostly of African descent. Gendron reportedly targeted the supermarket because most of the shoppers were dark-skinned people and he livestreamed part of the shooting on Twitch. The US law enforcement agencies were quick to open an investigation into the attack that also left 3 people wounded.
It is worth noting that French philosopher "Renaud Camus," who is commonly known for having strong position against immigration, was the first public figure to talk about the Great Replacement. He used to reflect on the idea of great replacement or genocide for white people in all the speeches that he delivers to the western far right movements, until such conspiracy theory reached a wide range of movements such as the “PEGIDA”.
Furthermore, a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press found that one in every three US adults believes in a more or less radical version of Camus’ replacement theory, in part due to the cheerleading of some right wing politicians and TV hosts.
However, far right and populist public figures bear a large part of the responsibility for such terrorist attacks, since their hate speech is fueling extremist tendencies to use violence against black people and marginalized groups.
Regardless of their different ideological or religious backgrounds, terrorist groups have recently succeeded in exploiting the Internet. Social media platforms, in particular, have become an integral part of the tools they used to spread their sickideas and extremist thoughts. Given their confidentiality, low costs and the easy way of communicating messages, encrypted applications have also been heavily used by these extremist groups in their connections with their followers and sympathizers.
Western white supremacists, more specifically in the United States, have been using this technological development in order to achieve their goals and objectives, namely to promote misinformation, attempt to recruit more supporters and even carry out terrorist attacks, if necessary, to strike terror into the hearts of the opponents of their extremist ideas.
Although major social media platforms have made more efforts to put an end to the spread of this content and took measures and policies to double censorship, they could not stop their pace completely. Some white supremacists resorted to other alternative platforms to disseminate their content, adding to the fears of their diverse mechanisms.
The Buffalo attacker, for instance, took advantage of the privacy of a famous video gaming application, Twitch, to livestream his heinous crime in order to encourage other users of the application to engage in similar violent acts. YouTube said it has removed at least 400 different versions of the attacker’s video other users have attempted to upload. Similarly, Facebook confirmed that it prohibited the publication of different versions of the same video, but did not provide exact numbers, while Twitter made it clear that it was removing instances of the video.
Throughout its reports, articles and studies, Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism (AOCE) has frequently warned against the spread of extremist thoughts that lead to the destruction of societies and sowing discord and distrust among peoples and even nations. Therefore, AOCE recommends taking the following measures into account:
• Law enforcement authorities should take further measures to thwart attempts to spread extremist ideas.
• Legislatures should enact laws restricting the possession of guns, especially after the recent increase in mass shootings in the United States.
• Religious institutions should work together to refute extremist thoughts and educate citizens about their religion, emphasizing in the meantime the values of peaceful coexistence among fellow citizens, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or color.
• Public establishments that provide youth services should intensify their activities to spread a culture of diversity and acceptance of others.
• Educational institutions should introduce curricula to educate students, at all educational levels, about races
• Parents should have constructive dialogues with their children about the culture of peace, even with their neighbors and colored colleagues.