Need to address Islamophobia globally - GulfToday

Need to address Islamophobia globally


People gather in front of floral tributes for victims of the mosque attacks. AFP

In the wake of the gruesome terrorist massacre in New Zealand, which has triggered extreme grief across the world, there is a dire need for the international community to initiate more serious measures to counter Islamophobia and eliminate intolerance and violent extremism in all its forms.

The dastardly shooting of innocent people as they prayed peacefully in mosques has shaken the conscience of humanity. The remarkable solidarity shown by the rest of the world for the victims and their families does offer solace, but there’s much more that needs to be done by the global community so as to avert such horrific crimes in future.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that, once stated Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, that righteous message seems to have lost its way in the Internet era.

The Christchurch massacre has bared the link between Islamophobia and terrorism in a way that none can argue otherwise. To think that a man could fill himself with such venomous hatred for fellow human beings he live-streams himself via a head-mounted camera online while firing at peaceful worshippers indicates that things are heading in a wrong direction. Somewhere the cherished values of peace, compassion and love for fellow beings advocated by every religion are being lost.

The rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law. Yet blatant racism and religious hatred continue to remain the bane of certain societies. It should never be forgotten that discrimination against individuals affects the society as a whole.

Countries need to have zero tolerance towards hate crime. Trust in the police will be eroded if hate crime cases are not handled with the seriousness they deserve.

The world is increasingly a global village and the fact should be acknowledged. Building bridges is anytime better than separation walls. The dead from Friday’s barbaric massacre span generations, aged between three and 77, according to a sombre list circulated among relatives. Some victims came from the neighbourhood, others from as far as Egypt or Fiji. At least two of the dead were from the same family— a father and son. India has stated that five of its nationals were killed, while Pakistan said nine of its citizens were among the dead.

The mosque attacks have shaken peaceful New Zealand, a country that prides itself on welcoming refugees fleeing violence or persecution. At a time of growing hostility towards diversity and the latest killings, the outpouring of compassion from authorities and people of New Zealand is truly laudable.

The highly respected Al Azhar University in Egypt has called the attack a dangerous indicator of the dire consequences of escalating hate speech, xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia.

It’s undoubtedly time for global introspection and corrective action.

As Dr Anwar Bin Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, wisely pointed out in his Twitter messages: “The New Zealand terrorist massacre highlights the necessity to address Islamophobia globally. While it is a time for grieving and reflection surely the link between Islamophobia and terrorism is firmly established. Reconsidering other terror attacks around the globe, surely the way forward is greater acceptance, diversity & inclusion. This should be our approach in defeating extremism.”