Islamophobia, antisemitism and all forms of prejudice provide a false justification for those prepared to commit mass murder – that’s one reason why we all have a duty to oppose such hateful ways of thinking.
Peaceful, innocent people murdered by a hate-filled extremist. In this case, the gunman had white supremacist symbols on his weapons, the victims were attending mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Whoever the killer is and whatever drivel is written in his “manifesto”, his actions mean he is just like every terrorist who has ever randomly targeted a crowd of people.
He is just like the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks. He is just like the man who shot dead 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October last year. He is just like the man who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.
There will always be people who search for ‘causes’ to enable them to justify deadly violence. It is probably too much to hope that humanity will ever be free of their repulsive presence.
However, collectively as a society, we can and we must make every effort to make it harder for them to find the false justification they seek.
This is why Islamophobia, antisemitism and any form of prejudice is so dangerous. This is why such evil must be resolutely opposed by all those who value human life.
We must realise how utterly wrong it is to call refugees fleeing war “cockroaches”, claim all Muslims must be “held responsible” for Jihadist terror attacks, and falsely insinuate that British Jews are agents of a foreign power – all real examples by people in the public eye whose names this article will not repeat.
Such hateful attitudes are on the rise the world over, playing a part in the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. The infamous pro-Brexit “Breaking Point” poster, showing a long queue of refugees, may not have deliberately echoed Nazi propaganda, but the shocking similarities were there for all to see.
“White nationalists” and the “alt-right” – or, in plain language, racists and the far-right – have proved adept at exploiting social media to spread their message. And social media giants, shamefully, have indirectly profited from this. Are they comfortable with such complicity?
The livestreaming of the Christchurch attack on Facebook shows how far social media has to go to tackle the abuse of their technology.
The victims of this latest appalling attack may have been Muslims, but New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern found a better way to describe them: “They are us.”
And we must stand beside them and those who now grieve.