On 15th March, 2019, a 28-year old man named Brenton Tarrant used a machine gun to shoot at Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand. At least 49 worshippers are reported killed, and 34 injured are in hospital, many in critical conditions. The victims hail from a wide range of countries including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Somalia and Turkey. The youngest victim was a 3-year old boy, born to Somalian migrants living in New Zealand.
Tarrant has been arrested and charged with murder. Two days before he committed the crime, he sent a 74-page hate-filled manifesto to the New Zealand Prime Minister and other government officials. In that document, he denounced immigrants as “invaders” and declared that his goal is to “directly reduce immigration rates to European lands.” He praised US President Donald Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Tarrant is expected to represent himself in the courts and justify his crime by spewing racist hatred against Muslim immigrants from various Asian countries.
This is not an isolated incident. Hate crimes against immigrants, and against Muslims in particular, are becoming more and more frequent in North America, Europe, Australia and other parts of the world.
Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US in 2001, there has been a concerted attempt by the rulers of the US and other imperialist states across the world to portray Muslims as terrorists, and to spread suspicion and hatred against them. The imperialists have used every kind of propaganda to portray Muslims as barbaric, inhuman, intolerant and violent. Muslims going about their daily lives have become vulnerable to vicious attacks. Muslim men, women, youth and even children have been blatantly assaulted in public spaces like malls, universities, markets and on the streets. Acts of arson like bombing or setting fire to mosques and Muslim prayer halls have been carried out in front of the police. Cartoons and videos have been used to spread venom against Muslims. In India too we have witnessed lynching and other attacks on Muslims across the country. In many cases, officials and people in authority have initiated the hate propaganda; those who organise these attacks have not been punished.
Racism, communalism and hate crimes have become tools of the capitalist ruling class to keep immigrants super-exploited, and to keep the working class divided and diverted from its real enemies. Those in power have to be held accountable for protecting the lives of all. They have to be held accountable for preventing the spread of Islamophobia (painting Muslims as dangerous) and all other forms of prejudice and hate.
People are rejecting all forms of racism and communalism. They want an end to all forms of physical attacks on people based on their religion, colour of skin or national origin. This sentiment can be seen clearly in all the mass rallies that have taken place in response to the recent attacks on Muslim worshippers, within New Zealand and in other countries.
Hundreds of high school students of Christchurch gathered in Hagley Park, directly opposite the Al Noor mosque, where the first and deadliest attack took place. Students from various national backgrounds and religious beliefs staged a united rally. They lit candles in memory of the people who had been killed. They sang songs and performed traditional dances of the Maori people. They were joined by crowds of people who had come to the park to pay their respects to the victims.
People have to further strengthen their united struggle in defence of the rights of all sections of society, against all forms of racism, communalism and hate crimes. People must not get diverted by the deceptive propaganda that the source of their problems lies in some people’s religious beliefs or customs.
Sikhs in New Zealand show tremendous compassion
“Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, Auckland" and Young Sikh Professionals Network NZ came forward very promptly to reach out to the Muslim community in Christchurch. Apart from opening langar to all those who came to help at the site of bombing, the Sikh community took on the onerous task of washing the corpses of the victims and readying them for burial.
The community spokesperson declared that “The Sikh community stands strongly and firmly with the Muslims because this act of terrorism happened in a place of worship, and we will spare no effort in supporting them.” Asking gurdwaras to support New Zealand’s Muslim community in the gurdwaras’ respective regions, the Young Sikh Professionals issued a statement “This kind of violence and the hate it perpetuates has no place in any country and we have a collective responsibility to stand up and say no — this is not us. We are reminded of the tragedies at Pittsburgh, Oak Creek and Charleston that were driven similarly by racial, religious and ethnic hatred and urge our community, and in particular our elected officials, to denounce this attack in the strongest possible terms.”
These Sikhs of New Zealand further created history when they offered space to Muslims to undertake namaz in gurdwaras.