Why President Donald Trump’s Rhetoric Caused the New Zealand Mosque Shooting

On March 15, 2019, at least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers in a terrorist attack broadcast in a horrific, live video by an immigrant-hating, far-right, white supremacist wielding at least two rifles. One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, noting that many of the victims could be migrants or refugees. She pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” The attack shocked people across the nation of 5 million people, a country that has relatively loose gun laws but is so peaceful even police officers rarely carry firearms.

The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a 74-page manifesto (in which he cited US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as inspirations for his hatred of Muslims) that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe. Using what may have been a Go-Pro helmet camera, he live-streamed to the world in graphic detail his assault on worshippers at Christchurch’s Masjid Al Noor (a predominantly Shi’a Mosque), where at least 41 people were killed. An attack on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more. Police did not identify those taken into custody and gave no details except to say that none of them had been on any watch list. They did not immediately say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings. Prime Minister Ardern alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that immigrants and refugees “have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.” As for the suspects, Ardern said, “these are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”

A Syrian refugee, a Pakistani academic, and their sons were among the 49 people killed. Syrian refugee Khaled Mustafa and his family moved to New Zealand in 2018 because they saw it as a safe haven, Syrian Solidarity New Zealand said on its Facebook page. His older son, Hamza Mustafa, was killed and his younger son was wounded. Victims hailed from around the world. Naeem Rashid and his son Talha Rashid, were among six Pakistanis who were killed in the mosques, according to Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”He used to teach at a university,” Dr. Khurshid Alam said of his brother. “My nephew (Talha) was a student.”Shah Mahmood Qureshi, foreign minister of Pakistan, confirmed the deaths and offered his sympathies to the families as well as a “promise to facilitate them to the best of our abilities.” Additionally, several worshippers from Iran, Palestine, and Jordan were among those killed as well.

The terrorist attack sparked much horror and revulsion throughout the world. Pope Francis denounced the “senseless acts of violence” and said he was praying for the Muslim community and all New Zealanders. Additionally, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull similarly condemned the attack, stating that “Today our love, prayers and solidarity are with the people of New Zealand whose compassion, humanity and diversity will triumph over this hateful crime.” Perhaps the strongest criticism came from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who correctly noted that bigotry and rotten ideologies such as white supremacy directly resulted in the attacks and called upon the New Zealand government to bring those who carried out the “racist, inhumane and barbaric” attack to justice. Zariff also pointed out that the same type of prejudice led to “Israeli thugs entering a mosque in Palestine to insult Muslims.”Additionally, the Iranian government called for an emergency session of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in response to the attacks.

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump has been criticized for his poor response to the terror attack. While President Trump did express his condolences for the attack in a Twitter post, he discounted the fact that the perpetrator of the attack cited him as an influence on his views and that white nationalism is a growing threat throughout the world. In contrast to President Trump’s implicit endorsement of white nationalism and discrimination against Muslims (mostly in the Shi’a sect), New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for a global fight to root out racist right-wing ideology in the wake of the attack. “What New Zealand experienced here was violence brought against us by someone who grew up and learned their ideology somewhere else. If we want to make sure globally that we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world we cannot think about this in terms of boundaries,” said Aldern.

US President Donald Trump has a long history of Islamophobic rhetoric and policies that many feel directly contributed to the New Zealand Mosque attack.

Overall, the case can be made that President Donald Trump’s destructive and xenophobic policies directly resulted in the shooting from taking place. President Trump has long established a reputation as an Islamophobe going back at least a decade. For example, Trump repeatedly insisted that President Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim back in 2011 and 2012, and promoted this belief on far-right websites such as Breitbart. At a September 2015 campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed that “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them?” In response, Trump said that “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. In November 2015, Trump indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the US and falsely claimed that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11. Additionally, Trump falsely claimed on March 9, 2016 that “Islam hates us.”

As President, Donald Trump doubled down on this hatred towards Islam through many of his policies, the most notable of which was an executive order that banned (mostly Shi’a) Muslims from six different countries from entering into the US. Additionally, President Trump surrounded with advisors with known histories of anti-Muslim statements. President Trump also promoted an anti-Muslim foreign policy over the course of his first two years in office. For example, Trump explicitly endorsed Israel’s efforts to brutally subjugate the Palestinian people and involvement in the ongoing genocide against Shi’a Muslims in various parts of the Middle East, as well as the involvement by the government of Saudi Arabia (which many scholars do not believe is a true Muslim country) the Yemen Civil War, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 100,000 primarily Shi’a Muslim civilians. Moreover, President Trump has promoted an aggressive, imperialistic policy towards Iran and stated that sacred religious sites in the country (such as the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad and the Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom) will be targeted if the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia decide to invade Iran.

Based on all of these factors, the case can be made that President Donald Trump’s vile and bigoted rhetoric directly resulted in the brutal terrorist attack in New Zealand. The world community has a resonsibility to stand against oppression and bigotry and work together to put an end to the politics of white supremacy and fascism promoted by the Trump Administration.

the author

Matt is a student at Seton Hall Law School and graduated from Monmouth University. Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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