• Ahmad Al-Shehabi

How to avert revenge for Christchurch massacre?

This is a heartbreaking day for not only Muslims but also for the humanity as a whole. On March 15, a gunman, Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, killed 49 Muslim worshipers and wounded more than 40 during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques in the country's worst ever mass shooting.

The Australian man who claimed responsibility for the shootings said in a manifesto that he came to New Zealand only to plan and prepare for the attack which the White House and many politicians called an "act of hate".

And here I call on the international community to come together and eradicate this scourge of violent extremism. This is a very specific challenge and that is not just a matter of military affairs or meaningless speeches. By "violent extremism," we don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people. We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists --the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalise and recruit or incite people to violence.

We all know there is no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist, so there’s no way to predict who will become radicalised. Around the world, inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths, by people of different faiths -- which is, of course, a betrayal of all our faiths. It's not unique to one group, or to one geography, or one period of time.

The International community has to take concrete steps. We have to confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups use to incite people to violence.

The New Zealand attacker is desperate for legitimacy. He tried to portray himself a significant leader – a holy warrior in defense of the West.

Of course, the New Zealand attacker does not speak for over billions of Christians who reject his hateful ideology. He no more represents Christianity than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Islam or Judaism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.

The inaction of the world in toppling dictators and ending the tragic scenes of civilian blood that come from Syria and Iraq for example grant here Muslim extremists the religious legitimacy that they seek.

A reason behind extremism is that Muslim world has suffered historical grievances and it is still suffering in some areas especially the Sunni areas in Iraq and Syria where at least 13 people were killed a few days ago by Russian warplanes in the city of Idlib. These scenes of blood make individuals -- especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated -- more ripe for radicalisation.

We have to tackle these ideologies head on. And we can't shy away from these discussions. And too often, folks are, understandably, sensitive about addressing some of these root issues, but we have to talk about them, honestly and clearly. And the reason I believe we have to do so is because I'm so sure that when the truth is out we'll be successful.

These acts of extremism justify Muslim violence in the name of fighting the injustice and racism. So if we’re going to prevent Muslims from being susceptible to the promises of extremism, then the international community has to offer something better. Syrians have to be supported by bringing to justice their mass killers, Assad terrorists.

The international community needs to promote development and growth in vulnerable societies so more people can provide for their families. It needs to lead a global effort against brutal regimes. The culture of the dictatorship has to be replaced by good governance that doesn’t favour certain groups over others.

Just as we address the political grievances that are exploited by terrorists. When a regime oppresses their people, denies human rights, stifles dissent, or marginalises ethnic and religious groups, or favours certain religious groups over others, it sows the seeds of extremism and violence. It makes those communities more vulnerable to recruitment.

So the essential ingredient to real and lasting stability and progress is not less democracy; it’s more democracy. The world cannot rely on regimes like the Assad regime that terrorises its own people -- a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.

​It’s institutions that uphold the rule of law and apply justice equally. Its security forces and police that respect human rights and treat people with dignity. It is free speech and strong civil societies where people can organise and assemble and advocate for peaceful change. It’s freedom of religion where all people can practice their faith without fear and intimidation.

All of this is part of countering violent extremism. If we address grievances, I think we could avert many tragedies that would take place in the name of revenge for the New Zealand Christchurch massacre.


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