Prayer. It is the aspect of religion that promotes peace and brotherhood, as we wish nothing but the best for our fellow people and ourselves. Places of worship, be it temples or churches or mosques, provide the calming and resonant atmosphere to do so. On Friday, March 15, dozens of people visited their local mosques to pray and introspect, but they had no idea their lives would be forever scarred by the events that followed.
During the Friday afternoon prayer, mass shootings occurred at the Al Noor Mosque and were quickly followed by another assault on the Linwood Islamic Centre. Hundreds of people who were praying at the locations, were helpless as they were attacked indiscriminately. Witnesses claim they heard a few loud gunshots, which they initially assumed to be some sort of electrical disturbance, but soon there was sight of blood and fallen bodies.
28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, armed with multiple firearms including a semi-automatic rifle, opened fire at the public present at two mosques, killing fifty people and injuring at least fifty more. He live streamed the entire sickening attack on social media platform Facebook, with a camera feed linked from his helmet.
He captured his drive to the mosque and his approach on the stream, as he played ‘alt-right’ music. As he proceeded to enter the mosque, he was greeted by a worshipper, who was one of his first victims. The gunman was cold blooded, as he mercilessly shot everyone he could. His lack of empathy was more than evident when the wounded, who begged him to spare them, were shot by him multiple times. Reports suggest that the body count could have been much higher if not for Naeem Rashid, a worshipper, who attempted to stifle the shooter and seize his weapon. Rashid was shot in the process, and later succumbed to his wounds at the hospital, but his heroic actions may have saved the lives of dozens.
The terror eventually stopped when the gunman was apprehended and taken into custody, but not before he had done his damage.
The Motive- White Supremacy
Trying to get inside the twisted head of Brenton Tarrant is not too difficult, as his motivation and vision are things he almost boasts about. His Twitter feed comprised of several pieces of the puzzle, including a picture of a rifle, which he would later use in the shootings, decaled with white supremacist and racist propaganda. The general theme of his Twitter account can be adequately described as right-wing extremist.
He also communicated with other people sharing similar hateful sentiments on 8chan, an online forum. Tarrant claimed in his messages that he would ‘attack against the invaders’ and that he would livestream the same. There was a 74-page long manifesto linked as well, where the “white genocide” and other such supremacist thoughts are echoed. The manifesto mentions that attack had been planned for two years and Christchurch had been chosen months in advance too. Minutes before the shooting, the manifesto was sent across the internet, as he wanted the world to see his viewpoint of white supremacy.
His motivation was clear cut as he repeatedly voiced anti-immigrant sentiments and demanded the removal of these “invaders”. He remained firm on this depraved stance after the arrest, as he stated he had no remorse and that he only wished he had been able to kill more.
A World In Shock
So, how did New Zealand and the world react to what has been described as its ‘darkest day’?
As everyone across the globe mourns and condemns what went down on Friday, the New Zealand government decided to act without hesitation. Immediately after the attacks, the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that there would be changes in the gun laws of the country. A move that is being lauded, and rightly so, by the residents and leaders from all over.
Meanwhile, there has been a significant backlash against Facebook for letting the gunman upload his footage and stream it live on the website. This once again invokes the age-old issue of the negativity that can be promoted through social media. There was no comment by any officials at Facebook but the account in question was terminated shortly after the incident.
The Bangladesh Cricket Team, who were on tour in New Zealand, were minutes away from the mosque when the shooting happened. The players were severely stirred by the shocking scenes and have urged everyone to pray for the ones affected.
Love, Not Hate
So as another act of terror rattles the global scene, we are left to wonder if there is any place that can be considered safe anymore. In times like these, we need to be closer than ever and show that we will not be bent or broken by these people who aim to strike fear. Help those around you and we will see a better tomorrow. For now, let us keep our fallen brothers and sisters in our hearts and hope that their loved ones are granted enough strength to pull through this tragedy.
Sources: standard.co.uk, pbs.org, Bloomberg,com
Image Credits: The Trending Press News, TimesLive, Samaa TV, Washington Post, Sky news, Gizmodo