During Friday Prayer on March 15, 2019, two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, were attacked by an Australian man, self identified as a white supremacist, who has since been arrested and charged with murder. 50 people died and 50 people were injured, making this New Zealand’s most deadly mass shooting.
Most media outlets are saying this terrorist attack was fueled by the recent global increase in white supremacy (racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them) and alt-right extremism (ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, loosely connected with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups). Islamophobia, increasing worldwide after the September 11th terrorist attacks, has sparked several anti-Muslim policies in recent years. The two mosques that were attacked, the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center, were only a few miles away from each other, and the attacks happened within about a 20 minute time span, enough to kill and seriously injure several men, women, and children.
New Zealand, being ranked the second safest country in the world by the Global Peace Index, was quick to condemn this act and make changes to the law so that it never happens again. Just six days after the attack, a new law was passed banning several types of semi-automatic rifles and large ammunition magazines. The gunman used two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns, and a lever-action firearm.
The United States has had many mass shootings within the past few years, yet we are still reluctant to strengthen our gun control laws. New Zealand, just six days after this tragedy, has changed their laws. The United States could learn something from New Zealand’s actions.
Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ #HR8.
Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market.
This is what leadership looks like ⬇️ https://t.co/TcdR63anBt
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 21, 2019
The gunman live streamed the first 17 minutes of the first attack, at the Al Noor Mosque, on Facebook. The gunman also wrote a 73 page manifesto, that was shared on social media sites, like Twitter, minutes before the attack took place. This is not the first time a shooting has been broadcast live on Facebook or another streaming service. The problem is, Facebook’s AI wasn’t able to detect the harmful content and stop it. Additionally, the sharing and uploading of the video to other social sites made it difficult to find all the copies and take them down.
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool. In this case specifically, people didn’t even report the video until 20 minutes after it finished airing; they actually shared it to other social media sites. Big companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube must have more accountability in how easily videos and posts are shared and flagged for inappropriate content; several of these companies are even in the process of creating stronger algorithms for security. Spreading of this hateful and violent content helps to fuel extreme thoughts and actions, and with this recent attack highlighted on social media, we can learn to be more aggressive in reporting unacceptable content.
What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) March 15, 2019
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, with many other females in New Zealand, wore headscarves in to show solidarity with victims after the attack. Muslim women in New Zealand were afraid to go out after the attack, so any woman who wanted to show solidarity covered their head. One woman even said: “and I don’t want him to be able to tell the difference, because there is no difference.” We too can stand with those who have been subject to awful crimes and condemn the racial, religious, ethnic or any other differences between us.
With the increase of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, and white national ideals, our world is becoming a dangerous place. We cannot let these extreme views continue to spread and cause people to fear for their safety. While it might sound cliche, as anti-racism educator Jane Elliott says: there’s only one race. The human race.0