Commentary: Christchurch attack another clear sign extremists of all persuasions are a major threat to the world
SINGAPORE: Hate can be a harbinger of terror.
And yet that hatred is sometimes ignored, whether it is spread online or in the real world.
Each devastating terror attack that has destroyed lives across the globe and ripped the social fabric of societies, weaves a common misaligned thread.
It is a result of deep-rooted, festering animosity towards a particular group that’s often nurtured through false correlations constructed by people looking to justify and spread their animosity.
Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, who killed more than 70 people in 2011, and Brenton Tarrant, who has been charged with murder in the wake of the terrorist attack in Christchurch on Friday (Mar 15) which left 50 people dead, are no different from 2016 Bastille Day attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej-Boulel, who killed more than 80 in Nice, and Anis Amri, who killed 12 people in Berlin’s Christmas market in the same year.
They were motivated by extreme hate, the only difference being what or who their targets were.
After the Sep 11 attacks in New York almost two decades ago, the words extremism and terrorism were increasingly associated with the Muslim world. But in that time, countless acts of terror have been perpetrated by other forces of extremism in the name of religion, race and politics.
HATE SPEECH NORMALISED
Perhaps the world was blinded by the dark, dense clouds of 9/11 that were perpetuated by wars and the consequential sense of insecurity. But those clouds served as the perfect smokescreen for the cancerous spread of the right-wing white supremacist terror movement across the globe.
The biggest problem today is how individuals belonging to or supporting this far-right faction have been given legitimate mainstream platforms to champion their cause, whether it’s the media or the political stage.
Hate speech has been normalised at some of the highest levels in both the West and the East. Australian Senator Fraser Anning’s vile comments right after the Christchurch attacks are just the tip of the iceberg. He joins a long list of politicians or leaders who have demonised immigrants, whether Muslims, Asians, or even indigenous populations.
Some news outlets have also been criticised for promulgating racist and Islamophobic agendas and viewpoints. And let us not forget social media - the wild West of the virtual world - that provides the perfect platform for haters to unite and divide.
Often, the right to unfettered free speech has given licence to hate speech.
The terror attacks at Christchurch are apparently the acts of an individual who professed hate against Muslims and immigrants and who declared his intentions online before his rampage.
The 28-year-old has been active on social media with posts clearly reflecting that hatred. He also put up on the Internet a 74-page manifesto detailing his belief and reasons for the massacre that he was planning to undertake. Photos of the weapons he used in the attacks were also up on his social media account days before the massacre.
But he was not on any terror watch-list.
ANOTHER BIPOLAR ORDER
Tracking every such individual may not be a possibility, even for the top security agencies out there. But looking at the plethora of hate comments that lean towards violence, one can only wonder why such speech is even allowed.
These individuals have drawn inspiration from right-wing politicians and leaders who rally support through anti-immigration rhetoric.
Should the restrictions placed on extremist religious scholars or speakers be applied to such right-wing advocates as well?
It’s time for governments to decide as the world enters a bipolar order once again.
However, that order is not one of two superpowers battling for world domination. It would be - or perhaps already is - a collision between the moderates and extremists of the world. A new “us and them”.
Terrorists and extremists, regardless of race or religion, need to be viewed through the same lens - as enemies of the world. If they reject diversity and tolerance, there’s no reason why the world should define, judge or even begin to understand them through those eyes.
They are the true “invaders” we should be concerned about.