The major story of the day has been the horrific mass shootings at two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. It has been called an act of terrorism by the nation’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, 49 are now confirmed dead, four people have been arrested including one woman.
It has been widely concluded that the attack had a white supremacist anti-immigrant motive due to the manifesto that has been circulated online by
one of the alleged perpetrators Australian born ‘Brenton Tarant’. Tarant also livestreamed the attack on social media.
There have been attempts to link Tarant with the local Australian nationalist movement with prominent figures being contacted by the mainstream media but no one in the movement had heard of him, no connection has be able to be made.
All afternoon we have seen politicians, authorities, commentators and terrorism experts react. And they have all run with the narrative that far-right extremism has been an underestimated present danger to the safety of western nations and surveillance of nationalist groups needs to be increased.
The reactions from Australian politicians across the political spectrum have echoed this viewpoint. This was led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who probably eager to distance himself from the right-wing label himself said:
“We are outraged and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing violent terrorist who has taken the lives, stolen lives, in a vicious, murderous attack that has claimed so many New Zealanders”.
He also reaffirmed his support for multiculturalism and respect for the Muslim faith:
“I particularly want to convey my heartfelt sympathies not only to all New Zealand people, but particularly my sincere prayers and thoughts for those New Zealanders and indeed Australians of Islamic faith who have been the subject of this callous right-wing extremist attack”.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian a week out from the state election added her words of condolences “I also want to deeply express our sympathies to many members of the Muslim community who are both shocked and reeling from what has occurred”.
Berejiklian, Labor Opposition Leader Michael Daly, Immigration Minister David Coleman and local federal Labor MP Jason Clare have attended a special Friday prayers at Sydney’s most well known mosque in Lakemba.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for a man of the left was actually more mild in his condemnation, not calling it a right wing extremist attack, instead stating we should reject attacks on any religion:
“This was an attack on a mosque. It could have been a church. It could have been a synagogue. This is an attack on worshippers practising their faith innocently. And attack on any religion is an affront on all religions. It is an affront on our common humanity”.
Other Labor MPs were more forceful in linking the attack with the right wing and nationalist movement. Shadow Environment Minister Tony Burke signaled the need for a crackdown on free speech.
Does anyone still dispute the link between hate speech and violence?— Tony Burke (@Tony_Burke) March 15, 2019
Greens Muslim Senator Mehreen Faruqi laid the blame at nationalist politicians Fraser Anning and Pauline Hanson for the shooting claiming they have blood on their hands.
We know Muslims are directly targeted by politicians day after day including those on the far-right like Pauline Hanson and Fraser Anning. We know Muslims are demonised constantly. We know we are hated by some.— Mehreen Faruqi (@MehreenFaruqi) March 15, 2019
Pauline Hanson has not yet commented on the shootings. But her NSW Legislative Council candidate Mark Latham offered general condolences to the victims and condemnation of the attack.
Tragedy beyond belief that a country as beautiful as New Zealand has been hit by evil carnage today.
My thoughts are with the victims, families and communities hit by the madness of murder and terrorism.
We must do everything we can to end the evil of public massacres.— Real Mark Latham (@RealMarkLatham) March 15, 2019
Meanwhile Fraser Anning who is in the process of launching his Conservative Nationals political party released a statement which said the attack was the result of Muslim immigration to the west and it was a form of blowback for Islamic violence perpetrated over many years.
Anning has been condemned by all sides of politics, including by conservative commentators such as Chris Kenny who said this demonstrated the danger of voting for minor parties.
Anning was also condemned by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on social media.
The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting. Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 15, 2019
Anning’s tweeting of his statement was removed by Twitter for inciting violence. On Facebook he doubled down sharing this meme.
Victoria Police held a press conference this evening announcing an increased police presence at places of worship this weekend and that 21 mosque open days in Melbourne scheduled for Sunday would still go ahead.
Based on the response from all the major parties in Australia it is clear that people of the Islamic faith will now be protected by our governments from criticism and critique and that a crackdown on the “far-right” or “right-wing extremism” will be attempted by government authorities.