On Friday 50 people were massacred in New Zealand; murdered by a terrorist who looked at women and children and saw nothing more than a religion. And already a commentary has started around these attacks that has revealed two separate worldviews in Australia.
Those who hold the first view are inclined to view each other as individuals worthy of dignity, and judge these individuals based on their actions. They remember that the victims of the massacre lived peacefully before they had their lives taken away from them in act of terrorism. They respond with compassion to their fellow man, sorrow at the senseless loss of life and anger at the terrorist who took those lives. And luckily this group includes most of us.
A small minority of others, however, have a different view. They only see people as groups based on ethnicity or religion, and judge individuals solely by these groups. This was the logic of the terrorist: the people praying at the mosques, including children, were judged for 1400 years of Islamic history and punished accordingly. Any question about whether they were good individuals could be answered by looking at the collective.
This worldview that judges us as religions or races isn’t just shared by far-right terrorists. It’s at the very heart of leftist identity politics as well, which is rightly called out by us liberals and conservatives. But in the wake of the Christchurch shooting it’s reared its head from the right too.
Just look at the statement Fraser Anning made. Barring a short disclaimer at the front, as believable as Hamas’ claims that they want a two-state solution while they advocate for the Jews to be thrown into the sea, Anning immediately went on to blame the victims. Because of the actions of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS how can Muslims in New Zealand who reject the ideology of these organisations be blameless? Ironically, he copied the arguments supporting Islamist terrorism.
The first is the victim-blaming that usually occurs after Islamist terrorist attacks. After 9/11, Peter Fitzsimons apologised to Bin Laden because the deaths of 3000 innocent people was obviously the fault of the Western World, not the warped ideology of Al Qaeda. In 2014 Wassim Doureihi of Hizb Ut Tahrir claimed if a thousand bombs go off in Australia “all it will prove is Muslims are angry” at how we’ve treated them. Under this logic Islamist terror is the fault of the murdered, not the murderer, and our anger should be focused on ourselves. For Anning the takeaway from the Christchurch attack had nothing to do with the fringe right and everything to do with immigration policy and the audacity the victims had to make their home in New Zealand.
The second is the collective responsibility Islamist groups assume. For Bin Laden all Americans were complicit in the actions of the American government and the issues he raised, and therefore their deaths were deserved. For Anning the victims were Muslims, were therefore complicit in any violent act ever undertaken in the name of Allah and as a result “weren’t blameless” in the terrorist attack that claimed their lives as they peacefully prayed.
But this shouldn’t be surprising. Anning shares the same worldview as Islamists and the identity-politicking leftists he claims to oppose opposing. Sure, drill down and the different vsariant favour different groups. Anning will put white Christians over Muslims of other races. And the scale is different; Anning simply wants Muslims out of Australia rather than shot. But the same cancerous ideology that undermines the liberal roots and civic nationalist institutions of this country are there.
Don’t think Anning is alone on the right either. XYZ published a piece from Adam Piggott admitting he couldn’t find any sympathy for those murdered because “they weren’t his people.” The Unshackled was hugely concerned for what this means for Australian nationalists, ignoring that Anning and Tarrant represent a threat to Australian nationalism, rather then an expression of it. And if the comment sections of mainstream media are anything to go by Anning will get more then 19 votes in his own right at the next election.
The view that all individuals should be treated with dignity and that they should be judged simply by the groups they are a part of cannot co-exist. And while the former is still dominant there are plenty of forces chipping away at it, including on our side. It’s vital that we understand this, recognise the figures behind it and confront the issue – and the perpetrators.
Kyle Williams is a Perth writer.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.