Justifying a Massacre: White Supremacy and Islamophobia

Friday is a sacred day for practicing Muslims. In every corner of the globe, Muslims have their rituals around the Friday prayer. In Dhaka, the routine is as familiar and comforting as a cup of tea. Breakfast in the morning. Reading the paper. My father preparing to walk to mosque in his white kurta/pajama smelling of attar–musk, oud. My mother preparing for prayer at home. Lighting a stick of incense. The household quietens. The air breathes softly even while rickshaws, people, and cars carry on outside.  A peace enfolds us. Once prayers are done, we wait for my father to return so we can sit down to a family lunch. The household sighs and comes back to life. The rest of the day continues at this relaxed pace with people visiting, chai and chats, and meals.

Forty-nine people in Christchurch will never participate in their own rituals around Friday prayer ever again.

Why? Because a white man from Australia found their presence so enraging that he went to their mosque and shot them at point blank range.

Men, women, children.

A man, standing on stolen land, a settler whose ancestors dispossessed the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand with unbridled barbarism, found the existence of Muslims on this land intolerable.

He was greeted with acceptance and he shot dead the one who welcomed him. How fitting. That is white supremacy and settler colonialism in a nutshell.

While the Muslims and allies reeled from the news, one Fraser Anning, elected from Queensland, immediately blamed the victims for being massacred. He starts with a condemnation of violence. Two sentences. Not concern for Muslims or condolences, just a general sentiment, a pro-forma nod to peace.

What follows is truly remarkable. The shooting death of 49 people in video-game-like progression is blamed on “fear” of the growing Muslim “presence” in his land.

Second, it is not the presence of guns or white nationalism, vitriolic Islamophobia or xenophobia that has led to this incident. That’s just “cliched nonsense.” We all know his forbears never hurt a hair on anyone’s head before black and brown immigrants started invading the country. Just ask the aboriginal and Maori peoples.

Third, we are told that the real cause of bloodshed is the immigration policy that allows “Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.” Here we see the inversion that is so common in white nationalist/supremacist propaganda. The people praying peacefully are the fanatics. The man doing the mass murdering is the victim. It is a twisted provocation defense.

Fourth, Anning tries to cling to reality yet his tenuous grasp fails him. He claims that Muslims may be today’s victims but they are usually the perpetrators and they are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale. It’s the Muslims, after all, who are dropping thousands of tons of bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, using drones, because they own all the arms factories and companies and have huge armies, we can safely call this “industrial-scale” violence. Perhaps Queensland isn’t quite such a hot bed of industry. Perhaps his familiarity with scale is limited to cottage industries? Anyway, these Muslims were just time-bombs waiting to go off. Best we kill them now before they “go Muslim” on us as Tunku Varadarajan (another mouth-frothing Islamophobe at NYU no less) tells us.

Fifth, he tells us who the Prophet was and lets us know that Islam is a violent ideology. It calls for the murder of unbelievers and apostates so he says. And this is why  no Hindus or Christians have survived to tell the tale in Muslim ruled lands. I wonder if he read the manifesto left by the mass murderer? Anning claims that Islam calls for the murder of nonbelievers. It only takes him another two paragraphs to call for the murder of Muslims.

Sixth, he fights fire with fire so he says. Islam is fascism and so we must fight it with… fascism. Just because the Muslims who died were not the killers (his brother-in-ideology has that distinction), they are not blameless. If they are not blameless, then they are to blame. They exist. That is enough.

Finally, he quotes the Prophet of love, Jesus, to say that those who live by the sword will perish by the sword. If you follow a violent religion, you can’t be surprised if you’re killed. (Has this man read the Old Testament?). This is the most common move of all. Muslims are interchangeable. Someone a world away kills someone, I can hold you responsible here. Muslims are the Borg. One organism seamless functioning together no matter where they are. That the people who lost their lives did nothing is irrelevant because someone somewhere did and is doing something. No Muslim is blameless not even children. That’s reserved for white Christians, liberal individuals. And that explains why for centuries Muslims along with other black and brown peoples have been killed on an “industrial scale” by white supremacist, settler-colonialists like Anning with impunity. Just how many have they killed in Iraq alone? Or is that just another inconvenient fact?

Muslims will continue to gather at mosques on Fridays. They will continue to greet each other in peace, to wish peace on the Prophet, and to take leave with peace. Because at the heart of Islam is peace. And the Fraser Annings of this world will never change that for those of us who believe and submit.