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When I woke up Friday morning to the news of the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, I felt sick. But sad
ly, not entirely surprised. I had been dreading this kind of violence happening, although I would have never imag
ined this kind of scale — 49 Muslim men, women and children killed in cold blood with such clinical, methodical precision and filmed for social media.
Islamophobia is on the rise and has been for some time. Muslims have been demonize
d, dehumanized and scapegoated on an industrial scale by society since 9/11.
No other group has been punished for the sins of the father in such a systematic and accepted way. Politicians, commen
tators, influencers and the media on the right have waged a war against Muslims that has become normalized.
The most powerful man on the planet, President Donald Trump, has sought to ban them fro
m entering the United States. British prime minister hopeful and former Foreign Secretary Bori
s Johnson made “jokes” insulting Muslim women, saying they looked like letter boxes. After those comments, Tell Mam
a, an organization that records Muslim hate incidents, reported that attacks on Muslim women went up.
They often take the form of pulling off a woman’s headscarf, espe
cially when she’s taking her children to and from school. Imagine what that does to a young
frightened and confused Muslim child? We have respected high-profile commentators who say that Islam
ophobia doesn’t exist and imply that “they” have brought it on themselves because of terrorism.
wake of the Christchurch tragedy, laying flowers and messages of support on the side of Hagley Park, close to the Al Noor mosque.
A makeshift memorial grew in the center of the main street, below traffic lights that flashed orange to indicate roads leading to the mosque were closed.
No one was allowed to approach the building, not even local home owner Sue Harrison, whose c
ar was still parked in the driveway of her property behind the Deans Avenue mosque.
Christchurch resident Sue Harrison heard the gunshots from her house, near to the Al
Noor mosque, and called the police. Her son Zin (right) called her to check she was alright.
She remembers listening to the soothing chant of afternoo
n prayers when it was broken by gunshots. Harrison called the police and hid inside her
house as the gunman worked his way through the mosque, shooting as many people as he could.
”The time the shots were happening, it was terrifying, absolutely terrifying,” Har
rison said. “There was almost an immediate feeling that they’re being targeted.”