Imagine you were wagging school on 15 March in Christchurch to take part in the world wide protest against climate change. You are marching and having a good time in the sun and expect that you as part of a world event starting in New Zealand will make the six o’clock news. Imagine that some person told you that this would not be the case. Instead an hour or so later in your peaceful town a lone white supremacist gunman would massacre 50 Muslims.
You would have said or at least thought that the person was having a bad dream. However that nightmare is exactly what happened.
By the night of that Friday you had learned all about the horror of Muslim men, women and children praying in two mosque being brutally killed. Some been finished off while already laying wounded on the ground by a cold blooded shooter. As a true terrorist he was out to inflict maximum brutality and bloodshed in order to strike fear / terror into our hearts. You also had learned that this terror was not only aimed at Muslims in Christchurch or New Zealand but everyone around the world. The gunman had live-streamed the murders on Facebook for all to see, download and spread.
Imagine if at that time someone told you that within a week the image of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comforting a Muslim woman would be projected onto the tallest building in the world in Dubai and their Sheik would thank our Prime minister and New Zealand in the name of 1.5 billions Muslims in the world.
You would have said that the person was dreaming. However that dream is exactly what happened.
The story of white supremacist hatred, bloodshed and terror had been overtaken by the story of love, grief, empathy, comfort and support. The overflowing flower tributes and messages not only in Christchurch filled our screens. The story of selfless by-standers and first responders doing their up-most to save the lives of the wounded led the news. And most of all Jacinda Ardern, our Prime Minister was leading the nation in making the Muslim Community part of New Zealand as never before : They are Us !
Women wearing head-scarfs in solidarity with our Muslim brethren. An Imam leading a prayer in Parliament. A Muslim call to prayer broadcast nation wide. Millions of dollars donated within days to support the victims. Government including the usually hostile Department of Immigration working overtime to help the survivors. The world watching and praising Jacinda for her leadership in giving comfort and taking action to ban the weapons, that had taken so many lives within minutes. Leadership was not offering “thoughts and prayers” – the usual US response to mass shootings – but action on gun laws.
There was even talk of the Nobel Peace Price. However the nominations for this year had already closed.
Imagine if somebody told you after all this outpouring of love that within days anti-Islamic hatred would raise its ugly head in New Zealand with a vengeance. That the letter writers, the talk-back callers, the self appointed bishop and even patronising so called “feminists” would all be showing their prejudiced ignorant Islamophobia. That social media would be so full of hate that one had to be fearful for Jacinda now having a target on her back.
You would have said to the person that he was having a bad dream. However that is exactly what happened.
The core of this fear and hatred is racism and xenophobia. It is fanned and exploited by populist right-wing demagogues all over the world beginning with Trump in the US, Brexit in Britain and many other countries around Europe and the world not to forget Australia with its long racist history now manifest in its inhumane refugee policies. It does not feel like a coincidence that the white supremacist murderer is Australian.
In this instance the hatred manifested itself in the form of Islamophobia. The attack and the backlash against empathy and love shown to the victims is directed against the religion of Islam. The victims from many different countries and different colour had one thing in common their Muslim faith. And the perpetrators and haters have the Christian religion in common. This hatred is especially insane as in the aftermath of the massacre the Muslim community in Christchurch and around the world have shown so much love and forgiveness.
The thing which enraged the haters most besides ignorant patronising objections to wearing a headscarf was the (Muslim) prayer. Could it be that there would be less hate if there would be less prayers ? If there would be less religion ? Even better if there would be no religion at all ?
May be it takes a much bigger dream and imagination to make the world a better place. May be it takes late but immortal John Lennon‘s dream :
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
by Dr Hans B. Grueber