Christchurch tragedy: a product of world’s exclusivity

Populist nationalism practised by some of the leaders in the world is fracturing their democratic societies

Muhammad Ali Ehsan March 17, 2019
The writer is a member faculty of contemporary studies at NDU Islamabad and can be reached at

The terrorist attack in the mosque of Christchurch, New Zealand has left over 49 Muslims dead, many others are injured and under treatment. This horrific attack has not only left the entire world mourning but has also once again brought to the spotlight the fact that ‘terrorism has no nationality or religion’. The world may continue to condemn terrorist acts and terrorism but unless we don’t wake up soon to promote and endorse ‘greater humanity’ and recreate a universal understanding of human dignity regardless of our religion, race or nationality, it will be very difficult to fight and surmount the challenge of terrorism being faced by us.

What is unique about this Christchurch attack is the use of technology. The headcam used by the shooter (Brenton Tarrant) to record and film the gruesome event and then post it and share it around the world through social media was the first of its kind and before even the news could break out people could watch the filmed event on their mobile sets. This is a dangerous precedent and may encourage many other ‘lose heads’ to emulate the event. Personally for me, the most disgusting aspect was to be able to relate and compare the whole event with the ‘violent video games’ that our children play all the time. In this post-digital revolution world, we are allowing our children to commit ‘digitalised violence’ while they play video games. Thus it is not entirely surprising that with such a ‘playing background’ what a brainwashed or indoctrinated lose head would do if he has an access to an assault rifle and other technological accessories? All video games that promote violence have negatively influenced a whole generation and its mindset and the post-digital revolution world unfortunately can do nothing about it and has to live with it.

The biggest challenge today for the leadership of the world is to build ‘inclusive communities’. The marginalised groups, ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees or for that matter women wherever they may be in the world their dignity and interests must be looked after. The nationalist and populist leaders that are trumpeting nationalist narratives and mobilising their followers to follow these narratives are creating huge divisions. Unfortunately, it is these leaders who tell their people that “their dignity has been affronted and must be restored”. The politics of exclusivity might win political leaders votes in the elections but it adversely affects the standing of marginalised groups in these countries. The real exponent of this ‘strategy of exclusivism’ is none other than the President of United States. The initial bugle of exclusivity was blown by Donald Trump who had, in his inaugural address, said, “We made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, confidence of our country dissipated over the horizon. From this day forward it will be America first.”

Populist nationalism practised by some of the leaders in the world is fracturing their democratic societies and besides depriving the marginalised groups the equal degree of rights is also motivating some to carry out hate attacks. The US, India, Hungry, the Philippines, Poland, Thailand, Myanmar, Turkey and the host of other countries can easily be ticked as those where politics of populism and nationalism is resulting in negative consequences for the marginalised groups. Whether it’s Muslim immigrants in the US or Muslims in India or in Myanmar, or Muslim refugees in the European Union countries or Palestinians, Kashmiris or Kurds — all are victims of democracies that have slid back to authoritarianism. Should we then be surprised when the ‘products of identity politics’ — that the leaders of the world practise — pick up assault guns and shoot innocent people? Those that are shot are not Muslims, Christians, Hindus or Jews — they are targets that are engaged by a ‘hate mindset’ which is the creation of the proliferators of politics of identity; they are none other than our very own leaders who fail to bind an inclusive society and only fan exclusivity.

The liberal international order with its free trade, free markets and economic globalisation brought in huge benefits and rewards for the globalised world. But were these rewards equally distributed? Did everyone benefit from these rewards? Why do people immigrate? Why do they leave their family, friends and countries to go to places like Christchurch? They do that because the countries and communities they live in do not offer them choices that modernisation brings with it so they migrate to the countries that offer them these choices. According to a report, the number of people living in extreme poverty in 1993 was 43% of the global population. The same dropped to 18% in 2008. An estimated 1.2 billion people have been lifted above the poverty line during the period from 1970s to the start of the first decade of this century. Was this uplift confined to a few countries making economic strides or was it across the entire planet? For the Third World and the developing countries, the poor is still getting poorer and the rich still getting richer. If the developed world wishes to witness a calmer future then it needs to reach out with assistance and assurance and not by getting deeply involved through military and non-military interference in the internal matters of the developing and Third World countries. Lack of opportunities to develop and grow will continue to create the huge divisions and frustrations between the haves and have-nots which will continue to fuel the fire of extremism and terrorism.

Samuel P Huntington was very much right when he theorised that “neither ideology nor economic interests but cultural factors will drive international relations in 21st century”. If anything the future of the world will depend on how the world will manage this cultural relationship — for good or for the worst?

In the long run if the world does not want events like the one in Christchurch to reoccur, it must ensure that the rights of the marginalised groups are not trampled. It must also extend support and equal opportunities to the ‘deprived world’. The support is most essentially required in the field of education, for men are what they are because of education and they remain very vulnerable to the ideas placed in their minds when they are young.

Only inclusive communities that are willing to jettison the dark forces of politics such as illiberalism, autocracy, nationalism, protectionism and populism can rise up to fight the menace of terrorism. Exclusivity and its practice will remain a recipe for terrorism and a death ground for peace.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2019.

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