When the word ‘tragedy’ is mentioned, people’s initial reaction is to think ethnocentrically. In reality, tragedy has been no stranger to any culture, nor has it been selective.
That being said, this knowledge does nothing to soften the blow of the recent horror that occurred in the community of Christchurch, New Zealand in Australia on March 15. Two mosques in the small community were plagued by violence, suffering and heartbreak when alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant opened fire inside the places of religious worship.
As an American, I have found myself oddly desensitized to horrific events such as large massacres and gun violence.
These incidents wreak havoc on the communities they take place in, yet mass shootings have happened semi-frequently in America since the 1999 Columbine shooting. Their reach has even extended to sheltered communities with strict gun regulation and low crime rates, such as the one of Christchurch, New Zealand.
When these tragedies occur, it is important to understand the impact it has on those directly affected, whether they are on American soil or not.
The Muslim population, which was targeted in the attacks on March 15, is one that finds itself extremely prone to receiving xenophobic treatment from Americans; according to NPR, the attacks were prefaced by an alarmingly sharp rise in what is called “white extremism” internationally. It was reported by multiple sources, including NPR.org and the New York Times that alleged perpetrator Brenton Tarrant was known to be openly associated with ideas of white pride and conservative right-wing ideals.
Islamophobia has been prevalent in America since the 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks, but this fear is misguided. It’s time to take a stand and address the fact of the matter: Americans have little factual basis besides the incident that occurred on Sept. 11 to persecute Muslims or Muslim-Americans, and that’s the tea.
In fact, according to the New York Times, since 2011 twice as many individuals have been killed by, you guessed it, white supremacists and “non-Muslim” radicals. A study conducted by Alex Nowrasteh for the Cato Institute found that the likelihood that a terrorist attack would be committed by an immigrant was one out of every 3.6 million people. This is a surprisingly low number in comparison to the amount of deaths caused annually by white nationalists.
According to Revel News, between the time frame of January 2008 through the end of 2016, terrorism committed by right wing individuals often lead to a higher number of casualties than Islamic acts of terrorism.
Not only do many Muslims live in fear of being labeled as a terrorists in America, but according to The Times as many as 1 million Muslims are currently imprisoned in detention camps in China. In light of the Christchurch tragedy, this fact has been overlooked by the public eye and overshadowed by the sudden horror of the massacre.
The world needs to acknowledge the well-being of the Muslim community is equally as important as that of anyone else and that these injustices against them can’t continue. Muslims are not a threat, rather the real danger lies in the widespread proliferation of xenophobic ideologies and beliefs.
It is important for everyone to understand the significance of standing in solidarity with the Muslim community. Interfaith vigils were conducted in both New Zealand and America, non-muslims and Muslims came together in unity and support, reminding the world that the collective stands a better chance at changing the treatment and perspective of a persecuted group than one person ever could.
Edited March 3 2019 to correct the spelling of Al-Qaeda.