The horrifying massacre of forty-nine Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has shaken the entire world. New Zealand is known for its pluralistic history and pro-diversity policies. The incident is a somber reminder that issues of religious, ethnic and racial divisions and ‘othering’ are not only evident, mostly in a subtle way, in terms of subconscious bias and discrimination in organizations and wider societies but also continue to demonstrate themselves in the shape of violence.
As my co-authors and I write in our book on ‘faith-based violence’, and also in my recent article, with Edwina Pio, on ‘a poetics perspective’ on Muslims in the West, the issues of Islamophobia and Islamist Takfiri militancy are interconnected. Both of these hateful ideologies feed on each other and their victims happen to be ordinary Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists.
It is important to highlight three important angles with respect to this vicious cycle of violence.
The first angle pertains to the ideological roots of this hatred. The ideological origin of Islamist militant groups such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Al-Shabab etc is a Takfiri (violence based on exclusion and intolerance) and puritanical mindset that believes in utter supremacy of its ideology which represents a vile and narrow-minded interpretation of religion. Without stereotyping all Muslims, this mindset is prevalent within a tiny sub-section of Salafi (‘Wahhabi’) and Deobandi groups. It is a statistical fact that since and including 9/11, almost all incidents of Islamist terrorism in the West can be attributed to Takfiri militants within these communities. However, it should be noted that the majority of Salafi and Deobandi Muslims (who themselves represent a small community within Islam) reject Takfiri militancy.
The second angle pertains to the racist and supremacist ideologies that prevail in certain sections in the West whose victims are varied and have historically included Jews, Roma, Blacks and Muslims. In the post 9/11 world, the West’s involvement in senseless wars and regime-change plots in the Middle East and the Takfiri militants’ attacks against ordinary people within and outside Western countries have given impetus not only to Takfiri radicalism but also to Islamophobia. The rise of White racist and extremist rightwing groups in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe and the emergence of anti-immigrants and anti-Muslim sentiments may be attributed to this phenomenon.
The third and most important angle pertains to the identification of the beneficiaries of this perpetual cycle of hatred and violence. This should be easily evident to anyone who has critically investigated, for example, recent developments: (a) the USA and its allies’ role in support of transnational Islamist militant organizations to confront Soviet presence in Afghanistan, (b) their role in support of Islamist militant groups in Libya and Syria, and (c) their role in support of the Saudi war in Yemen. These recent events make it obvious that the ultimate beneficiary of these hateful ideologies and their spiral of violence happens to be the military industrial oil complex whose only priority is to make profits from the production and sale of weapons and oil. Any lives lost in pursuit of this goal whether those of Westerners, Muslims or any other community are nothing more than a collateral damage, a price they are willing pay.
Given the meagre academic and media attention to the umbilical cord that connects the military-industrial-oil complex with Islamophobia and Islamist militancy, I don’t find much hope that the situation is going to improve any time soon. Treating such attacks as isolated incidents or attributing them to a lone wolf is tantamount to denial of the much wider challenge facing humanity. Christchurch is yet another addition to our hall of shame in which people of all faiths, ethnicities and nationalities are bleeding and will continue to bleed.
About the author: Jawad Syed completed his PhD from Macquarie University, Sydney on the topic of diversity management in Australia. He is a professor of organizational behavior, diversity and leadership at Lahore University of Management Sciences. He is also a co-director of the Global Centre for Equality and Human Rights.