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19 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 19 March, 2019 12:05:22 AM

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Peddlers of hate must bear responsibility for the Christchurch attacks

Hussein Ibish

Words matter. Actions are motivated by thought.

So, those who deliberately spread dangerous ideas via reckless statements which, taken to their logical conclusion, will inevitably provoke violence, are responsible for that result. The western world, including the United States, is in the throes of a major resurgence of white-supremacist rhetoric that is inspiring a wave of terrorism. The latest instance was the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which at least 49 Muslim worshipers were killed by a white supremacist gunman.

The suspect’s manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement”, demonstrates that he was convinced that white Christians are being systematically invaded and will eventually be replaced by non-white people. He saw himself fighting in a racial war, the main weapon of which is immigration.
This paranoid delusion is overtly promoted by fringe right-wing voices in the West to endorse discrimination, exclusion and even expulsion of non-whites. But a slightly attenuated version, encoded in unmistakable dogwhistles, has gained vast traction in “mainstream” conservative discourse, not least in the United States. President Donald Trump deploys precisely these tropes to denounce immigration, describe Mexicans as "rapists," impose a ban on entry for citizens of several Muslim-majority countries, and propose building a wall along the US-Mexican border. Immigration is supposedly his signature issue, but he’s really talking about race. When he thunders about an "invasion" and "onslaught" of migrants trying to "infest" majority-white nations, his words draw directly on and give a global platform to this "replacement theory”. Referring to the alleged dangers faced by both US and European countries gives these ideas the ability to travel.
Naturally, the Christchurch terrorist praised him as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose”. Mr Trump has worked hard to foster precisely that impression, stoking apocalyptic, existential fears that easily translate into violence.
In American replacement mythology, Jews are typically cast as the funders and masterminds of a plot to destroy white societies, abetted by chaos-sowing Muslim terrorists and hordes of Central and South American migrants to perform the actual replacement. Hysteria about the recent migrant caravan conveyed exactly that narrative. This is also what the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville – praised by Mr Trump as "very fine people", meant by their notorious chant – "Jews will not replace us."
It’s a contemporary update of Adolf Hitler's deadly delusion that Jews and "Aryans" were in a life-and-death struggle that not only justified but necessitated genocide.
This ideology has variously inspired massacres of worshippers at an African-American church in Virginia, Jews at a synagogue in Pennsylvania and now Muslims at a mosque in New Zealand. The mainstreaming of this hate-filled ideology has been so devastating that the Anti-Defamation League reports that right-wing extremists committed 70 per cent of American domestic terrorism in the past 10 years and a full 100 per cent in 2018.
Words obviously have consequences.
That's why members of the Trump-supporting wing of the American right are suddenly so defensive and alarmed. They’re terrified that the non-racist majority will finally put two and two together and realise that their rhetoric was bound to result in carnage, and that they cannot, therefore, continue to evade responsibility for it.
As the full horror of the Christchurch attacks sunk in, almost the entire American ideological far-right suddenly started singing a most unusual song: don't pay any real attention to this crime.
“Terrorists crave attention and publicity,” they said. “Don't give them any! Don't examine, analyse or reprint his manifesto. Don't discuss his hateful opinions. Don't view his videos. Don't even say his name.”
Doing anything else, they sermonised with extraordinary unanimity, would merely feed the beast and reward terrorism.
But these were precisely the same voices who, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have been angrily demanding that the term "Islamic" always be applied to any terrorist violence carried out by Muslims. Anything else, they insist, is craven political correctness and denial.

The writer is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute
 in Washington

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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