Christchurch: Is Islamophobia the Only Thing We’ve Learned?

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (center wearing a black hijab) greets members of New Zealand's Muslim community at Islamic prayers following the massacre (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (center wearing a black hijab) greets members of New Zealand’s Muslim community at Islamic prayers following the massacre (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Much has been said about the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand. And a horrific xenophobic attack this was.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been lauded worldwide for her humanitarian efforts to deal with this tragedy. There is no doubt; she handled the Mosque attack with empathy and sympathy.

Arden reached out to the victims and community in many ways — from showing solidarity by wearing a head cover (although I could never figure out how this represents all Muslims) to having the call to prayer played public, to visiting the victims in their homes and in the hospital. She came through in every way and needs to be appreciated for her efforts to show that the Muslim minority communities of New Zealand deserve respect and dignity in their time of need.

However from every tragedy there are lessons to be learned. What has happened in parts of the Muslim world is that after the initial shock and sympathy, the Christchurch attack was turned by Islamists into an obscene political move.

The rhetoric became one of a singular victim ideology. The common thread running through the Islamist narrative is that anyone or any organization that ever critiqued radical Islam or Islamism is somehow to blame for the Christchurch Mosque attack. This includes reformist Muslims who, for a very long time, have been challenging radical Islam and its takeover of the Muslim narrative.

The cries of “Islamophobia” by the Islamists completely obscured the fact that Muslims who live in Western societies enjoy full rights and freedoms. Aside from a few xenophobic attacks (which should always be condemned), Muslims are part of the larger landscape and have been successful in getting their reasonable — and unreasonable — accommodation needs fulfilled as citizens of a Western democracies with full rights.

What seems to have been missed in the larger conversation is the idea of how a humanitarian and visionary Western leader deals with a minority population in her country.

Muslims comprise approximately one percent of New Zealand’s population. Yet the outreach, sympathy and empathy with them in their time of mourning has been unprecedented. In fact, Ardern did such a good job that some Muslims felt she should convert to Islam and even asked her to do so (which points to the narrow and one-sided vision of the world they hold).

Ardern’s behavior points to a larger conversation we should be having (and are not) about how Muslim-majority societies deal with their minorities. Here, the track record is pathetic:

  • In Pakistan, Christians and the minority Ahmaddiya community are continuously persecuted for their faith.
  • Also in Pakistan, two Hindu girls in the Sindh Province of Pakistan were recently kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam
  • In a predominately Muslim town in southern Ethiopia, an incited Muslim crowd burned 10 churches of eight different Christian denominations.
  • In Sudan, Christians and minority Muslim tribes are being persecuted and killed.
  • In Egypt, numerous Coptic Christian Churches have been destroyed. Copts live in constant fear of their women being kidnapped and forcibly converted.
  • In fact, the most victimized and persecuted people in the world today are Christians living in the Middle East.

The point being is that if we are ever to learn from a tragedy, this one should speak to how minorities are mistreated in Muslim-majority countries, and how this critical issue should immediately be remedied by the leadership.

For many parts of the world, there is hardly any mainstream media coverage and for other parts, leaders just say the conventional words with no follow up.

It’s not enough to condemn what’s happening. There needs to be policies and actions that show the world that there is a serious interest in protecting the rights of minorities that live in Muslim-majority countries.

If the Muslim world admires Jacinda Arden so much, then they should copy her example and give their minorities the dignity and respect they deserve.



Why the West Is Responsible for the New Zealand Massacre

NZ Attack: Something to Do Besides Hand Wringing

NZ Muslim Leader Tells Who Was ‘Really’ Behind the Attack


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