10:55 GMT28 February 2021
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    Deadly Attack on Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (61)

    Friday's attack on two mosques in New Zealand shows a different form of religious extremism that sees Islamic extremism as a threat that is analysed as “reactive co-radicalization” according to Douglas Pratt, Honorary Professor at the University of Auckland and Honorary Programme Officer of the Religious Diversity Centre of Aotearoa New Zealand.

    Sputnik: Islamic extremism is a well-known term, are we witnessing the emergence of anti-Islamic extremism? How dangerous is this phenomenon?

    Douglas Pratt: Yes, I think we are. Because this particular right-wing extremist, identified as a white supremacist, it was certainly part of his platform is clearly targeting Muslims and this kind of behaviour has been analysed as "reactive co-radicalisation"; that is Islamic extremism itself is perceived as a threat has been generalised to all Muslims, and then on that basis a reactionary extremism is enacted in this case the attack on these two mosques.

    READ MORE: Christchurch Attack Has Been a Very Rude Awakening For New Zealand' — Prof

    Sputnik: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her country was targeted because of its diversity. The notion of diversity is said to be among many things the attacker focuses on in his long manifesto. He believes the more diverse group becomes the less equal it remains. In your view what is the main reason for this intolerance towards a diverse society?

    Douglas Pratt: That's a very complex question. It is hard to understand quite why it is happening this way but it's very clear in many contexts that the more there is manifestations of diversity the deeper it seems to be a reaction against it. We see this in so many parts of the world at the moment actually. And I think the shock for New Zealand is that it's the first time it's been manifestly obvious and enacted here, but the underlining issue is really an ideological perspective that wants to maintain a sense of racial purity and that, of course, is where the white supremacy element comes in.

    And so, therefore, the notion that you have a diverse mixture of cultures and ethnicities is perceived as being a dilution of any kind of racial purity. Now that, of course, is the hardline view of white extremists and that partly drives their agenda, and their ideology, but in this case, and in other cases too, what we're seeing is that ideological agenda is focused actually on one particular group, namely Muslims.

    READ MORE: Christchurch Attacker May Have Had Support — New Zealand Police

    It doesn't, for example, in this country there are many Catholic Filipinos, for instance, there are many Indians of different religions that celebrate Diwali, there are many opportunities for an extremist to actually target ethnic diversity, but he didn't, he targeted religious diversity, and that's what happens when religious diversity is expressed through one religion, namely Islam, not other religions. So although the rhetoric talks about anti-diversity vis-a-vis white supremacy the actions belie another agenda which is tied in with it, which is actually Islamophobic, and that's the one that's being manifest.

    So there is often a confusion I think both in terms of the action of supremacists, who are not the brightest match in the box, shall we say. His own manifesto rantings are clearly gleaned from multiple sources out of Europe and they're not his own, that's for sure. They echo Anders Breivik, for example, as well as others. So he's put together a manifesto which endeavours to express what he thinks is the way ahead and he's then acted on it, but it is actually in many respects quite confusing because his ideology may appear to be white supremacy but his actions are Islamophobic.

    Sputnik: Professor, what's your take on the statement made by an Australian senator who blamed the attack on "a huge wave of radicalised Muslims in New Zealand", is there any truth to that? And how much immigration has there been in New Zealand?

    Douglas Pratt: That's a ridiculous statement. Everybody's debunked that straight away. In the first instance, the Muslim communities in New Zealand are very diverse, very urbane, very secularised for the most part, and very much adopting New Zealand values and society identify as New Zealanders, whether they are residents or citizens, or whatever. And out of a total of some 50,000 the security intelligence services at one point thought they had about 50 younger Muslims in their sights as potentially radicalised, of those a handful did make it to Syria, and of those, one, who is a New Zealand convert, is trying to come home and nobody wants him. So we're not exactly awash with thousands of radicalised Muslims, quite the contrary.

    There's virtually no evidence at all of anything significant in that respect. The interesting thing about the Australian one that reflects a very hard line supremacist and anti-Islamic ideology that is Australian-driven. It's very much part of the Australian culture, it is expressed in Australian politics. There are actual political parties that adopted it as their platform and, of course, the perpetrator of this crime in New Zealand is an Australian.

    READ MORE: New Zealand Company Under Fire Over 'Symbolic' Link to Mosque Shooter — Report

    Sputnik: Professor, for such a peaceful country like New Zealand Friday's attack has certainly become the point of no return in many ways, in your view what lessons should be learned primarily after the Christchurch tragedy?

    Douglas Pratt: Well, the first lesson would be, and I think this is already starting to come home strongly to our security services and government; is that whereas lately there's been an awful lot of focus on China, and concerns of security in relation to Huawei, and internet stuff, and concerns about the remnants of ISIS, and the possibility of one or two people coming back, and the possibility still of Islamic extremism, though there's been scant evidence of that here. The little examples that we've had actually had mental health issues and not been actual terrorists as such.

    So I think the first thing is to recognise that actually while we had our gaze focused on the possibilities that exist elsewhere, we've been overlooking in our own backyard, and I've been aware of this for well over a decade, multiple expressions of Islamophobia and anti-Islamic sentiment in particular; not so much white supremacy, there's a little bit of that in the country. It's particularly focused in the region where this took place, unfortunately, but there's been quite widespread in some quarters, some Christian quarters as well as some others, of antipathy towards Islam and that is an echo of sentiments that are expressed overseas by and large.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Deadly Attack on Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (61)


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