New Zealand Mosque Massacres: Words Matter

Those who have demonized Islam and Muslims will not get a free pass

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Take a look at this picture. Take a long, hard look.

This is the reality that is Islamophobia. This is the result of the endless and incessant demonization and attack on Islam and Muslims. This is the result of constantly dehumanizing Muslims as the “other,” as the “invader,” as the “terrorist hoarde” coming to “impose Sharia law” on the masses.

In the wake of the truly horrific NZ mosque shootings, with over 49 dead, those who have said terrible words about Islam and Muslims are now backpedaling, trying to distance themselves from what they have said in the past.

HELL NO.

You can’t back away from what you said in the past. You can’t un-own the hateful rhetoric directed against Islam — not extremist Muslims, not the barbarians whom all Muslims reject — but Islam itself. You can’t distance yourself from citing some backward Sheikh in some village somewhere in the Muslim world and then saying, “See? This is Islam.”

Dr. Hisham Hellyer — senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and the Atlantic Council, and the author of Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans — said it very well when he wrote today:

The temptation is going to be to declare the suspect, who livestreamed himself on Facebook shooting dozens of Muslims while they gathered for Friday prayer, a madman. It would be comforting to think so. Because then we could put aside any recognition that the discourse he appears to have bought into, evident from the manifesto he posted a link to on his now-deleted Twitter account, goes far beyond simply him.

But that would be a mistake. The themes of that manifesto — that Muslims are invaders, intent on replacing the white majority in Europe and the west — are indelibly linked to others on the far right, such as Anders Breivik, who went on his own murderous rampage in 2011 in Norway. But it has a long pedigree in western societies and is not restricted to the political fringes.

He is absolutely correct. The constant demonization of Muslims goes back a long time in the West, and it has led to violence. This is fact. And now, the Islamophobes are distancing themselves from their words.

Nope. We will not let you do it. Words matter. And those words have led to this massacre in New Zealand, and the mosque shooting in Quebec, and the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last year.

Words. Matter.

On the same day as the massacre, Australian Senator Fraser Anning released this statement:

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Look at what he said:

Let us be clear, while Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators. World-wide, Muslims are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale.

The entire religion of Islam is not like any other faith. It is the religious equivalent of fascism. And just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.

As we read in Matthew 26:52, ‘all they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword’ and those who follow a violent religion that calls on them to murder us, cannot be too surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kind.

There are so many stupidities in this statement that I don’t have the time to get into it. At the same time, this is the kind of rhetoric that leads to violence. “The entire religion of Islam…is the religious equivalent of fascism.” This is the type of hate speech that leads to the type of shootings as that in New Zealand today. And, we will not let him back away from it (although his words lead me to believe that he is so hateful, so callous, and so cold that he doesn’t care).

Further, it is true that some Muslims are killing in the name of Islam around the world. First, they are a tiny minority. More importantly is this fact: you know who the overwhelming majority of the victims of this “industrial scale” violence perpetrated by Muslims are? Fellow Muslims. So his “facts” about Muslims and violence are not even correct. How horrible.

Another thing. Take a look at the things written on the gun of the terrorist:

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This is not the action of a “deranged lone wolf” with “mental issues.” This is anti-Muslim/anti-Islam hatred par excellence. He cited ancient battles where Muslims were fought and defeated. He cited Nazi slogans. He even wrote down, “Turkofagos,” or “Turk-eater,” a nickname for Greek militias fighting Ottoman Turkish (read: Muslim) troops. This is the result of deep, long-standing anti-Muslim hate that has been constantly spewed by anti-Muslim bigots. And those who have spewed those words can never un-own those words. Words. Matter.

Once again, take a look at the photo at the top of this post. Take a long, hard look. We all need to see the result of the constant demonization of Islam and dehumanization of Muslims. This is the reality of what happens when anti-Muslim hatred goes unabated and even becomes acceptable in our societies today.

Islamophobes — such as Senator Anning quoted above — are so quick to blame all of Islam and all Muslims when any Muslim anywhere does anything bad. Yet, when their words lead to the hatred that causes the violence we saw today in New Zealand, they immediately deflect blame from their words and distance themselves.

Nope. You can’t have it both ways. Words matter, and we will not let you un-own the hateful rhetoric that has led to this unspeakable violence. Words matter. Words. Matter.

Reflections on Faith by Hesham A. Hassaballa. Books: “Beliefnet Guide to Islam” and “Noble Brother,” the Prophet Muhammad’s story entirely in poetry.

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