The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, declared on Sunday that the country would see changes in its gun laws following its most deadly massacre this past week, in which fifty people were killed in attacks during prayer at two mosques in Christchurch. The attack, which observers have claimed was designed to go viral across the internet, was a global shock of deadly Islamophobia when news of it broke on Friday. A 28-year-old Australian man was charged with murder and is expected to face additional charges, for the mass murder of worshippers that he streamed live over Facebook. While it was initially thought that there may have been multiple shooters, investigators stated that the man accused was the only person involved.
Until this attack, New Zealand has had fairly lax gun control laws, and a low incidence of gun deaths, a pattern which this mass murder has thrown into flux. “There will be changes to our gun laws,” Ardern said when asked, according to the New York Times. While no comprehensive policy reform has yet emerged, the nature of the weapons involved as well as the white nationalist agenda actively promoted has garnered significant attention in the aftermath of the attack. The victims of the attack included those from many nationalities across the globe, including Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia, and many nations expressed their mourning in the aftermath of the brutal attack.
The question of gun control reform in New Zealand will be central to legislature in the coming weeks, but the rise of Islamophobic white nationalism, particularly through social media platforms, has also been thrust into the spotlight. A video of Chelsea Clinton being confronted by a mourner, accusing her of tacitly supporting the forces of Islamophobic violence that led to this attack, went viral on Saturday. A 72-page manifesto released by the killer, essentially a horrific minefield of racism and Islamophobia, leaves no doubt that this vicious attack was made possible not only by lax gun control laws allowing for the easy acquisition of automatic weapons, but the growing Islamophobic sentiment quietly or overtly espoused by European, American, and Commonwealth politicians. This prejudice was on display in the response of one New Zealand senator, Fraser Anning, to the mass murder of innocent worshippers, who said in a statement that “the real cause of the bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
This atrocious victim-blaming demonstrates the depth of anti-Islamic sentiment and the levels of power at which such delusional hatred runs rampant. Tightening gun control regulations so that automatic weapons capable of carrying out such an attack are no longer easily available is a crucial step that the New Zealand legislature must take. However, acknowledging and strongly condemning the white nationalist ideology driving this attack is equally necessary to avoid its recurrence. Far too many right-wing politicians across the globe currently express support for a somewhat subtler, but just as insidious, version of the racist ideology of the killer. This worldview is borne out within their domestic and foreign policies that hold the value of Muslim lives as inferior to the white Christians. If all of the politicians who have condemned this attack in the past few days truly wish for such an act never to happen again, they must take on not only permissive gun policy but the Islamophobia and white supremacism, empowered by centrist and right-wing politicians, that drove such a nightmarishly cruel attack.