SYDNEY: A far-right Australian politician was criticised on Friday (Mar 15) after blaming the killing of 49 people at two New Zealand mosques on immigration and Islam.
In a media statement issued after the deadly attack, Queensland senator Fraser Anning said that while he condemned the actions of the gunman and is opposed to any form of violence, the mass shooting reflected the “growing fear” of Muslim immigration in Australia and New Zealand.
“Whilst this kind of violent vigilantism can never be justified, what it highlights is the growing fear within our community, both in Australia and New Zealand, of the increasing Muslim presence,” the statement read.
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.
“Let us be clear, while Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators.”
The 28-year-old suspect of the shootings allegedly published a racist "manifesto" on social media before the attack, suggesting neo-Nazi ideology and Muslim immigration to Europe had spurred him into action.
Anning on Friday described Islam as a "savage belief" and the "religious equivalent of fascism".
"Those who follow a violent religion that calls on them to murder us (non-believers), cannot be too surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kind," he said.
While the statement has since been deleted from Anning’s social media accounts, the senator defended his comments on Twitter, saying: "Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?"
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday condemned Anning’s statement, calling it “disgusting”.
“The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting,” he said on Twitter. “Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.”
Anning “is a disgrace to the Senate and what is worse by spreading hatred and turning Australians against each other he is doing exactly what the terrorists want,” tweeted former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Politicians from other countries also joined in the condemnation, with Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali accusing Anning of choosing "to vent his racist prejudice and hatred against Islam" instead of demonstrating empathy and compassion.
Singapore Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam described Anning’s statement as “sickening” and “completely unacceptable”.
“In some parts of the world, there is open Islamophobia. Very sad,” he said in a post on Facebook.
Last year, Anning drew condemnation from his colleagues after using the term "final solution" in calling for a revival of a "White Australia" restrictive immigration policy.
The Final Solution or the Final Solution to the Jewish Question was a Nazi plan for the genocide or extermination of the Jews during World War II. Anning has since said he did not know the history of the phrase.
Earlier this year the senator attended an anti-immigration rally where some far-right demonstrators were seen making Nazi salutes.