When beliefs turn into bullets labels become important | Aysha Taryam - GulfToday

When beliefs turn into bullets labels become important

Aysha Taryam

@ayshataryam

Editor-in-Chief, Gulf Today News and Media.

Editor-in-Chief, Gulf Today News and Media.

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A poster is seen at a memorial site for the victims of Christchurch mosque attacks. William West/ AFP

Last Friday the world woke up to the horrific news of a gruesome attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that took the lives of 50 people and sent shockwaves across the globe. People of all ages and walks of life were ambushed in their most vulnerable state, while in the act of prayer, mercilessly shot by a ruthless assailant, a monster who was not deterred by the sight of old men, children or the cries of help from pleading women. The massacre was live-streamed on Facebook and the videos circulated like wildfire, having witnessed it, the images of lives being snuffed out so mercilessly cannot be unseen.

This was a first for New Zealand but sadly not for the rest of the world. People slain at their places of worship, indicted for their beliefs; shot, burnt, hung because of the colour of their skin. It happened before, it is happening now and will continue to happen if immediate and decisive action is not taken. We can start by calling things what they really are, these are not unrelated hate crimes, they are pre-planned, large-scale operations that if executed successfully aim to cause massive damage and claim a great number of casualties.

The perpetrators are not gunmen, lone wolves or victims of mental illness; they are terrorists. Each time we bear witness to such senseless acts the world divides into a side which views this type of attack as terrorism and another which dismisses it as a random act by a person whose actions need some sort of justification. People call out the media for their use or dismissal of the word terrorist and the topic of labels takes over the debate. This attack was no different, some media outlets called the attacker a gunman and others went as far as digging up his childhood images in order to use the word ‘angelic’ in their description of this embodiment of evil. The labelling falls back on a technicality, the fact that the attacker does not affiliate himself with a terrorist organization gives the media the freedom to call him what they wish, even ‘angelic’.

"Each time we bear witness to such senseless acts the world divides into a side which views this type of attack as terrorism and another which dismisses it as a random act by a person whose actions need some sort of justification.

Here is where the question lies though, why are white-supremacist organizations not on the terrorism list?

These organizations have tried hard to clean up their image, frowning on the word supremacist and preferring to be called white nationalists instead because labels are important after all. The ideology is the same nevertheless, the belief that what they deem to be the ‘white race’ is superior to all other races and that it should fight to maintain its dominance at all costs. This racist ideology that should not exist in this time and age is actually defined as a ‘school of thought’. Thoughts and ideas cannot be criminalized but when they are used to groom and entice aggression to where beliefs turn into bullets then labels become of utmost importance. The US government was quick to label the Black Panthers a terrorist organization, the UK did the same with the IRA and surely Al Qaeda and Daesh all started as ‘schools of thought’ too.

White supremacy and its ideology is on the rise, unabashedly metastasizing and leaving a trail of casualties in its wake. Its manifestos are inspiring and recruiting more monsters armed to the teeth and out for blood. They are supported by the words of world leaders who have become accustomed to using hate as a means to garner votes, votes that have allowed them to lead the ‘free world’.

In 2011 Norway witnessed the massacre of seventy-seven of their youth during an attack at a summer camp by a white supremacist. This was the deadliest attack experienced by Norway since World War II. In 2018,Pittsburgh, USA another supremacist opened fire at a Jewish synagogue killing eleven congregates. This terrorist chose a Saturday, the Shabbat, which is a Jewish holy day, just like in New Zealand’s mosque attack the attacker chose a Friday, a Muslim holy day. Christchurch is the latest, but it does not look like it will be the last, not until the world identifies and labels whitesupremacist organizations as terrorist entities holding them responsible for the actions of their followers. This world needs unity not division, it needs love to counter the hate, it requires debate in order to reach acceptance of the other. White supremacy is not an ideology it’s a disease. End the confusion, call these atrocities by their real name, terrorism.