As we mourn with the families who lost their loved ones in the horrific attacks on the two Christchurch mosques, the crime should in no way harm the image of tolerance for which the people of New Zealand have long been known for, and which I myself witnessed during the two years I lived and worked there.
New Zealanders are kind-hearted people who embrace ethnic diversity; I saw no loathing of immigrants among them. In the almost 20 years I spent living and working around the globe, including 13 years in America and three in Britain, I found New Zealanders the most tolerant and peace-loving people. Such tolerance has long been engraved in NZ culture and is exhibited in the degree of acceptance I observed from their institutions towards the Māori community.
In both Auckland and Wellington, New Zealanders invited me to their homes and took me on tours to show me the cultural heritage of their great cities. My NZ colleagues visited me in Egypt, stayed with us and I showed them around Cairo. We share a common humanity, and I join my NZ brothers and sisters in shouting that terrorism knows no race, no colour, no religion. We today stand united with them in their struggle to continue to set their country as a model of racial tolerance — a homeland for peoples from all over the world, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has kindly stated.
Violence breeds violence. The culture of racial intolerance which is rising around the globe today is the product of extremist beliefs planted into the minds of youths as well as of cruel, capitalist policies manufactured by right-wing politicians (seen today in America, France and Australia) who believe that only those who have, those who hold power or a certain belief, should run the world.
History will never pardon US presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump for making the world whimper with hatred, in violation of the values of US thinkers such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, to mention a few.
If the Christchurch mosque massacres and the distressing 17-minute video which was live-streamed on social media should teach us anything it is that far-right ideas are rapidly growing on social media. To have a world free of racism today, we must teach our children early on to respect the traditions and beliefs of all peoples that make up humanity. And the Muslim world should also share the burden by speaking out more loudly against extremism when erupted from their side.
The more space and attention social media grants extremists, the more we'll see social-media massacres like the Christchurch shootings.
To cleanse humanity of racist ideologies, social-media giants should be more responsible and embrace all efforts to counter hate speech. Then comes the issue of toughening gun-control laws worldwide — from New Zealand to the United States. Unless and until we do this, we will continue to see ethnic tension and a rising tide of violence against houses of worship.
Mohamed El-Bendary, a former journalism lecturer at Massey University, is the author of The 'Ugly American' in the Arab Mind: Why Do Arabs Resent America?