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Muslims Respond To The New Zealand Mosque Attacks

Mar 15, 2019
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At least 49 people are dead following a mass shooting on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Multiple suspects are in custody.

Wajahat Ali is a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times, and he's done a lot of writing about the subject of hate. When he heard the news about the attacks last night, he put his thoughts into a chilling Twitter thread. And he came into our studios earlier this morning to share his thoughts.

WAJAHAT ALI: Today is jumah. It's the Friday prayer. It's the equivalent of Sunday Mass for Muslims worldwide. It's the one day in the early afternoon where you go with your family members to your religious sanctuary, your constitutionally protected house of worship, the mosque. And you go there. And you pray. And there's kids running around. And afterwards you have a plate of biryani or dessert, and you go home.

And in a place of worship - where you're most vulnerable, where you're praying to God - a shooter comes in with an assault rifle, with a camera attached to his head like a Doom first-person video shooting game, and kills 49 people. Maybe the number might go up. And 49 people - for 49 people in New Zealand, that's their last prayer. And here we are, sitting in America. And I got a WhatsApp message from my Muslim-American friend when we found out about this, saying, how will we keep our kids safe? And it hits you because it's not just Muslims, Rachel. It's also Jews and black Christians and Sikh-Americans whose houses of worship are no longer peaceful sanctuaries because they have been sites of mass violence, of domestic terrorism. And that's why I did that Twitter thread last night, just trying to connect the dots, telling people that this is not a Muslim issue or, oh, just the Muslims died.

This is a violent extremist ideology that has been globalized. If you look at the manifesto of the alleged shooter, what he left behind, the same type of conspiracy theories that are profited here in America - the "great replacement" theory - right? - which says that the Jews, who are the head of the cabal, they're the smartest. They are trying to overtake white, European civilization by bringing in the savage hordes. That's us, by the way - Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims.

MARTIN: We should just - I just want to pause on that, the document that authorities are referencing as the shooter - one of the shooter's own words, his justification. He says at one point in this document that he sees Donald Trump as, quote, "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."

ALI: And why would he say that? And why would Daily Stormer, the leading white supremacist website now, in America, see Donald Trump as one of their men? And why would the KKK and the alt-right, Richard Spencer, praise Donald Trump's victory? And why would David Duke like Donald Trump? Well, I wonder why - because Donald Trump, in the midterm elections - just happened - promoted the vile anti-Semitic conspiracy that George Soros - the Hungarian Jewish-American billionaire - allegedly funded this caravan, Rachel, of Middle Eastern suspects, rapists and criminals to invade and take over America.

Does this language sound familiar? Read the alleged manifesto. Listen to white supremacists. The No. 1 domestic terror threat in America in the past 10 years, according to the FBI, is not Muslims, even though there is a threat of Muslim extremists. It is what? White supremacists - right? - radical right-wing groups.

MARTIN: We should just say, the White House has released a statement - Sarah Sanders - saying that the president and the broader Trump administration is grieving with the victims of the attack and denounces the forces that may have brought this to bear. And...

ALI: It took them - it took them some time 'cause when this was happening, you know what he did? He tweeted out and promoted Breitbart. And I know, as a fact, that when a Muslim suspect does it - because this happened right after Charlottesville, in Spain, the same exact act of domestic terrorism, where extremists hijacked a car and plowed through a group of people. He had no problem tweeting.

He tweeted the debunk conspiracy theory of General Pershing that, allegedly, Pershing said if you dip your bullets in pig's blood, it's easier to kill Muslim terrorists. And as a Muslim, I could tell you that you don't have to kill innocent pigs and use their blood. Regular bullets work just fine because we're human beings.

MARTIN: So you are hearing from friends, from people you know here in the United States, who are feeling unsafe today as a result of what's happened in New Zealand.

ALI: Yeah. On the drive here, a friend who has two teenage boys - born and raised here - said I couldn't sleep all night, man. Because today's jumah. Today is Friday prayer in United States of America, right? New Zealand is several hours ahead of us. So guess what? In about three hours, your American-Muslim neighbors and friends are going to go to Friday prayer. And guess what's going to be on their mind?

And when you go bow down to the ground and praying to God, you know, you want to be immersed in prayer. You don't want to have one eyeball at the door to see if a man dressed up in camouflage with an assault rifle is barging through and punishing the, quote, unquote, "invaders" - who is us.

MARTIN: You say the men who are committing these hate crimes are like white ISIS.

ALI: White ISIS - the DNA of violent extremists is very similar, whether they are ISIS recruits or white supremacists. These are angry, dislocated men and women who usually find a community online that gives them a sense of purpose and identity. And they are on a hero's journey.

That's a key thing that people don't realize. They think they're the protagonists of this narrative. They're warning the rest of us. And it's a zero-sum game, no gray area - us versus them. For ISIS, it's a perverted version of Islam, that we will create a glorified caliphate - romanticism. For white supremacists, it is very similar - in the path towards radicalization - very similar in their grievances. It's just the vehicle is a bit different. One is ISIS; one is white supremacists - very similar.

MARTIN: Wajahat Ali, contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times. Thank you so much for coming in.

ALI: Thank you so much, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.