It was two weeks on Friday since a self-confessed white supremacist changed New Zealand forever. Friday 15th March 2019 is a day many New Zealanders, including me, naïvely thought would never come to this country. It’s the day a terrorist committed mass murder on our soil. “The Christchurch Massacre” is now part of our history.
Fifty New Zealanders died that day. 42 of those died in the Al Noor Mosque, and seven in the Linwood Mosque. The fiftieth, a Linwood Mosque worshipper, was pronounced dead on arrival at Christchurch Hospital.
Another 48 were injured. Some of those people are still in hospital, including a four-year-old girl.
If you want to know the killer’s name, or what he looks like, you’ve come to the wrong place. I will not write or say his name, and I will not post his picture. I have great difficulty remembering names in normal circumstances. Unfortunately, I remember his, despite the fact I’ve only heard it a few times. I’m hoping I will forget it in time.
I don’t remember exactly when I began my practice of not mentioning terrorists names. It’s not that long ago. However, I’m at least glad it began before this incident. People like this killer want notoriety, and I refuse to be any part of that.
As the days have gone by, my emotions have been on a roller-coaster. Shock, horror, sadness, frustration, and pride at the way the country has come together to support those who are suffering the most.
Several members of my immediate family have been directly impacted by the Christchurch Massacre. I don’t want to betray them by discussing how. Suffice to say, while the Muslim community are facing the worst of it, many others are having a tough time too.
The Murderer’s Aims
Just before he began his shooting spree, the killer published a manifesto about his aims. Before I’d read it all, that document became illegal to download, or have copies of, in New Zealand. Our prime minister has asked international media not to share the contents of the manifesto too, and the media outlets I use (for reasons of trust) are respecting her wishes. It’s probably available on the Dark Web, but as it’s now illegal to go looking for it I’m not going to.
I understand this move as a gut reaction to this terrorist’s poison. As a result, there has been no push-back against the new law. However, long-term I think it’s a bad move. All the same arguments apply in this case as apply in similar circumstances elsewhere.
The example that springs to mind is the illegality of Holocaust denial in Germany.
There are always people who will see conspiracy theories, some more than others. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that seeing patterns, even when they don’t exist, is a result of the way our brains have evolved. That’s part of why when something is banned, there will be people who believe it’s information we should know. They think the forbidden information is correct or true in some way and there’s a conspiracy to hide it.
There’s also the Dunning-Kruger effect, which has become more well-known in the last few years because President Trump appears to be such an exemplar.
We all know the saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” too.
I took screen shots of some parts of the manifesto. I had plans to expose the ignorance and stupidity of the killer through his own writings. Much of what he wrote was just wrong, but this new law prevents me exposing that. Personally, I think that is a better way to deal with his manifesto than banning it.
I think it’s unlikely this will change here in a hurry either. Even before this, there were attempts to ban proud alt-righters Stefan Molyneaux and Lauren Southern from even entering New Zealand last year. They came to Auckland, but were unable to find a new venue after their initial choice was withdrawn. The protests against them were not so much about the substance of their views, but were blanket ones against “hate speech”.
There were those who spoke up in support of their right to speak, despite not liking what they had to say. However, those same people would find it far more difficult to speak out in the current environment.
New Zealand’s Reaction
Jacinda Ardern, was only 37 when she became our prime minister in 2017. She was famous all around the world not only for being a female head-of-state at such a young age, but also because she was pregnant. It was international news when her daughter was born a few months later. Even though a majority of New Zealanders (63.1%) didn’t vote for her party, most would admit she’d already been doing a good job representing us on the international stage before the horror of the Christchurch massacre.
However, the Christchurch massacre was her first real test as a leader. I think most New Zealanders would agree she passed with flying colours. She is truly a prime minister worthy of respect.
Moreover, New Zealanders in general have followed her lead. I’m really proud of the way most New Zealanders have responded. We’ve come together as a people to give our support to those in need.
The murderer said he chose New Zealand because he wanted to show that even in a place as peaceful as this, we were not safe. His hope was that our response would be to hate Muslims because it was their presence that brought terror to our shores.
Instead, his rampage has had the opposite effect. It’s brought all New Zealanders closer. Non-Muslim New Zealanders have gone the extra mile in so many ways to show Muslim New Zealanders we care about them. Muslim New Zealanders are hearing from the majority, instead of the minority who perpetrate ignorance towards them.
In the past there the usual things like the abuse of women wearing the hijab, tagging and vandalism of mosques, etc. did occur, and probably will again. The difference now is that Muslims know that most people, even if they don’t agree with their religion, respect their humanity.
We are not ignorant of the problems of conservative Islam here. Anyone who is a regular reader of my website will have read multiple posts critical of Islamists. And, we do have conservative Muslims here. However, they’re not the majority. Just like in any subset of a community, there are people no one would choose to be representative of them. The existence of extremists doesn’t excuse bigotry, and in New Zealand at least, the majority of Muslims are just as much a part of us as anyone else.
We even have a Muslim in the All Blacks. Sonny Bill Williams is one of the best players in the world. He also plays for the Super Rugby franchise, the Auckland Blues. Just before the Christchurch Massacre he had a game as temporary captain of the Blues, and received wide praise for his leadership of the team. I saw the game, and made note of what a good captain he was myself. His words and actions following the tragedy have also shown his leadership skills.
New Zealand Atheists’ Response
Peter Harrison is Administrator of the Facebook page of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (NZARH). NZARH members were invited to a vigil at the Ponsonby Mosque (Auckland), one week on from the murders. Peter was one of those who took up that opportunity. He posted an edited video of the event on YouTube. This is Peter’s comment accompanying the video from Facebook:
Yesterday I attended a Vigil at the Ponsonby Mosque. This video is my edited down version of the proceedings. The reality right now from my point of view is that a politically and perhaps religiously inspired nutbag killed 50 people in order to trigger some kind of racial war. In this they have been entirely unsuccessful.
This individual opposes everything we stand for, for an open, free and and tolerant society. We must not lose sight that many of those killed were New Zealanders that worked in our hospitals, universities and schools. Everyone should be safe in New Zealand. I’m gutted.
I’m well aware of the fact that religion and Islam in particular gets plenty of critique in this venue; in my view justified. I’m not stepping away from condemnation of inhumanity anywhere. But right now I think it is important to be united in our clear and unanimous condemnation of this vile terrorist act. There will be time enough for critique, but for now the nation is trying to come to terms with this tragedy.
While the video contains prayer and religious themes I think the speech by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff [3.15 – 11:34] said pretty much everything about the value of a secular society that I could have expressed myself. So many of the speakers expressed how proud they were at how New Zealand has come together to support the Muslim community in their grief. I hope we too can find unanimity in having compassion for the families left behind.
I thoroughly endorse Peter’s comment.
Dave Lane, an NZARH member who has his own website, made this excellent comment on Peter’s post:
Beliefs deserve respect on their merits or lack thereof. The key thing is simple: respect humans. Respect the right for humans to believe what they want, and protect that. Employ reason, not coercion, to dispel unhelpful beliefs, and never without recognising the underlying humanity and right to dignity…
(Both gave me permission to use their words.)
Bigotry in New Zealand
Although New Zealand only has low levels of racism and Islamophobia, it does exist. That includes a tiny element of white-supremacy. As we saw on that fateful Friday, it takes only one person to do huge damage. I take some comfort in the fact the killer is not a New Zealander. I don’t know it that makes a difference, though I like to think it does. However, it helps me to deal with the fact of the Christchurch Massacre to know he wasn’t born here, he didn’t grow up here, and he didn’t go to school here.
As I’m unable to refer to the murderer’s manifesto, I can’t discuss much about why I think he came to think the way he does. However, amongst other conclusions, I agree completely with Peter Harrison above about the killer’s desire to start a race war. There is evidence to support that conclusion in his manifesto.
Further, even when his case comes to court, it’s possible we won’t publicly get to hear the clues. Due to the government wanting to ensure the killer gets none of the fame he wants, there may be restrictions on the reporting of the trial. That’s not a bad thing. The last thing any of us should want is for him to gain any level of notoriety. However, as I said above, there has to be a balance to ensure free access to information.
Wearing the Hijab in Support of the Muslim Community
Thousands of women in the public eye have been wearing a hijab (scarf covering the hair) in support of the Muslim community. The female anchor of the New Zealand news channel I watch (1News) did not wear a hijab in the studio. However, I’ve seen pictures of women I don’t recognize, but whom I assume are the anchors of ThreeNow and Prime News, sporting the hijab. Most of the (female) on-location reporters I saw wore the hijab.
There are also female police officers, first responders, and many members of the public who are choosing to wear the hijab when attending various vigils and memorial services.
Prime Minister Ardern wore a hijab on all occasions she went to a mosque. It is no surprise to me that she did that. It fits perfectly with her character. There’s a strong tendency towards being Woke there.
Personally, it’s not something I would have done. I’ve written several posts relating to my opposition to the hijab, including by Muslim women:
For me, the hijab is a sign of the subjugation of women. It is supposedly a part of a woman guarding her modesty, but quite apart from anything else, who decides what’s modest? It implies men are incapable of stopping themselves from making unwelcome sexual advances towards a woman unless she covers herself. Further, it makes it her responsibility if a man makes unwelcome sexual advances towards her.
It’s a sign that women are second-class citizens in Islam. To me, it’s also just as insulting to men as to women; what kind of man is so incapable of controlling himself that women need to hide their bodies from him?
I understand the wish to express support the Muslim community. It’s a feeling I share deeply. But surely simply making the effort to attend one or more of the many services does that? Wearing a symbol of the suppression of women is a step too far in my opinion.
It’s almost a week since I wrote this post, but I thought I should include something about the changes to be made to our gun regulations. Most of you reading this are USians. Your culture is plagued by mass shootings, and from a distance it often appears that many in your country don’t care. I know that’s not true of many more though. Several of you have even been so kind as to contact with me directly to offer your support, which truly means a lot to me.
Over the last twenty years there have been three attempts to toughen up New Zealand’s gun laws. Each was a failure. The Christchurch Massacre was a wake up call for some, leading them to cooperate with those wanting change. Others still don’t want change, but the political climate following the Christchurch Massacre means they daren’t vote against the changes.
Writing about the changes to our gun laws is fairly boring. Thankfully, Now This World have come up with one of their informative we videos on the topic. So, I’ll leave it to them to explain.
Note: The smaller semi-automatic weapons they are talking about that will still be legal are those that pest controllers use for bad infestations of rabbits and possums.
As is says in the video, these laws will pass. Some already have. In the past, two main parties have been against any changes. One is the National Party. They are the party that most farmers support. However, the National Party appears to be making a genuine effort to cooperate with the government on this. They are currently the biggest party in parliament and know they would lose support if they did not support change in the current political environment.
The other main party that is against changes is New Zealand First, the party of the deputy prime minister and a party in the governing coalition. Although he has not said the words, it is clear he is not happy about having to vote for the changes. However, he knows his party is small enough that it would be lucky to survive if he went against the changes.
New Zealand is still in a state of shock. This tragedy has had good things come out of it though. We’ve faced the worst humanity has to offer and come together to reject it. On the day of the tragedy, I heard only one New Zealand leader offer “thoughts and prayers”, and that was a Muslim.
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