Christchurch attacks in New Zealand were systemic and Islamophobic, says expert

Muslims cannot be protected from Islamophobic attacks if collective memory is not built, according to Salman Sayyid.

Christchurch attacks in New Zealand were systemic and Islamophobic, says expert

A renowned rhetoric and decolonial thought professor said the Christchurch attacks were Islamophobic and "systemic" acts and that Muslims should build a collective memory in the face of such attacks. 

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Salman Sayyid, an expert at the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the UK's University of Leeds, spoke on Islamophobia on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the 2019 terrorist attacks that targeted two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

"Often when these attacks (such as Christchurch attacks) take place by mainly white racists, they were always presented as being the attack of individuals who are mentally ill or who have personal problems, rather than seeing them as part of a systemic process and as attacks on people of color across the world in many places," said Sayyid.

What happened in Christchurch was an Islamophobic attack because "the killer made it very clear, (by) attacking (a) mosque, killing people on Friday prayer," he noted.

Referring to the link between racism and Islamophobia, Sayyid, also the author of many books in the field, underlined that Islamophobia is a kind of racism and also has links to "white nationalism".

He added that what some African and Chinese students have been facing in Ukraine during the evacuations by train amid Russia's war on the country, is another example of such acts.

"These people (attackers in Islamophobic acts), you can see from their websites, they share the same ideas. ... people are oppressing Muslims. … For example, what’s happening with Uyghurs in China. China talks about terrorism, the threat from radicalization. The Indian government talks about the threat from radicalization, it takes away citizenship rights from Muslims."

Also mentioning similar attitudes of the Myanmar government against Muslims, with "overpopulation" claims, Sayyid also pointed out the French government's behavior toward the Muslim community.

In response to a question on whether Muslims can build a collective memory in the face of Islamophobia, Sayyid stressed that it is important for Muslim societies to build this as none of the terror attacks or Islamophobic attacks is a single act, but rather part of systemic and connected acts.

"All of these are justified and then you see what happens in Christchurch, you see all of this can (be) condensed into that moment of violence, but that violence is not just happened, it is everything in the background which connects something that," he added.

In the face of these attacks and attitudes, Sayyid warned that if Muslim communities do not build the memory of these events, they will not be able to tell their children about such attacks.

"And more importantly, they will not be able to protect Muslims from those attacks and this is something, the heavy responsibility on all of us."

Also responding to a question on claims that link Islamophobia and the integration of Muslims, Sayyid rejected the claims, pointing out the German Jews and Bosnian Muslims.

"The two most-integrated communities in Europe in the last 100 years were probably the German Jews and Bosnian Muslims and look what happened to them. It was not because they were violent," he added.

Sayyid also noted the discrepancy in Western politicians' decisions and attitudes on border crossings by Syrian refugees in the past and Ukrainians in recent weeks.