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'Politics of Demonization': Mainstreamed Islamophobia Decried in Wake of Christchurch Terror Attack

Massacre in New Zealand should be "moment of reckoning for leaders across the world who have encouraged or turned a blind eye to the scourge" of hateful ideology

 

 Muslims attend a vigil at the East London Mosque for the victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks on March 15, 2019 in London, England.

 Muslims attend a vigil at the East London Mosque for the victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks on March 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Progressives, many of them Muslim, decried the mainstreaming of Islamophobia as providing fuel for the hatred and violence which led to Friday's attack on two mosques in New Zealand that killed at least 49 people.

The one attacker that has been charged, identified as Australian Brenton Tarrant, cited a number of  familiar xenophobic and Islamophobic talking points against immigrants and  Muslims in a manifesto posted online. The sentiments were placed alongside more blatant white supremacist rhetoric about "white genocide" and declining birth rates.

For many on the left, the attacker's apparent motivations were the inevitable result of years of anti-Muslim rhetoric in politics and media across the West. 

"From the US to France to Australia, Muslims are persistently vilified and attacked, while biases against them are normalized," said Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American poet, on Twitter. "Then when white supremacy violence kills dozens, society disingenuously throws its hands up and wonders how this could ever happen."

Humanitarian non-profit Islamic Relief USA, in a statement from the organization's chief executive officer Sharif Aly, called for an understanding of how things got to this point while also hoping for peace and dialogue. 

"We cannot address this horrific tragedy against Muslims," said Aly, "without addressing the root causes of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred and violence."

Pointing out that those root causes are increasingly accepted in society, Imraan Siddiqi, the executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations in Arizona, said on Twitter that Friday's attack was something that was a long time coming.

"All it takes is one individual to be radicalized by these messages and to act out violently," said Siddiqi.

The attacks were "a moment of reckoning for leaders across the world who have encouraged or turned a blind eye to the scourge of Islamophobia," said Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo in a statement. 

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"The politics of demonization has today cost 49 people their lives," Nadoo added. "Reports that the attackers followed a white supremacist manifesto must galvanize world leaders to start standing against this hate-filled ideology."

That may be easier said than done, however. A number of commentators pointed to statements made by influential American conservatives as indicative of the mainstreaming of the hate. 

Of course, as National Iranian American Council president Jamal Abdi made clear in a statement on the attacks, the blame doesn't end there. 

"The U.S. now has a President that is a global leader in spreading such bigotry and who has failed on numerous occasions to halt his hateful rhetoric and the policies that are inspired by it," said Abdi. "We reiterate our call for Donald Trump to make a clean break from his white nationalist and Islamophobic roots and condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile acts of terror that spring from such hatred."

Activist Linda Sarsour, co-founder of the Muslim advocacy group MPower Change, echoed Abdi's call for the president to step up and change his way of speaking about Muslims. 

Amid calls for accountability and change, many people continued to express sorrow over the attacks and returned their thoughts to the victims.

"Dreadful news coming out of New Zealand this morning," tweeted Liverpool football star Mohamed Salah. "My condolences go out to the families of those innocent victims who lost their lives in this act of pure evil."

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