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Women embrace near Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019. REUTERS

OF all places on earth, peaceful Christchurch in New Zealand has just become the scene of a cold blooded massacre of innocent people in two mosques there. With 49 dead so far and dozens wounded, it is one of the worst terror attacks in the world, this time carried out by white right-wing extremists. Three male and one female suspects are in custody.

In an immediate reaction, the secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yousef Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, said: “The brutal crime had shocked and hurt the feelings of all Muslims around the world, and served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia.”

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad called on the governments of the world to understand why such terror attacks took place and their modus operandi, which is different from a conventional warfare.

Many people may not understand what right-wing extremism or the far right is all about and its recent resurgence in the West. In simplistic terms, right-wing politics is about preserving certain often oppressive social orders and hierarchies as inevitable and even desirable. Right-wing people tend to react to progress and change, hence they are also called “reactionaries”.

Extreme right-wing politics is associated with ultra-nationalism, fascism and racism or race supremacy, which is often used as justification to oppress and repress others. The most classic example of right-wing extremism is Nazism (oppressing Jews and others) and more recently, Zionism (oppressing Palestinian people) and the extreme right-wing politics used by President Donald Trump in many instances to secure and stay in power.

The far right has also been sweeping Europe, mostly singling out innocent Muslim refugees there, who are merely escaping from the horrors of wars in Syria and the region. These vulnerable refugees become easy targets for xenophobia, hate and outright racism.

Donald Trump used right-wing politics to get himself elected in 2016 and he is also playing the same right-wing politics to stay in power. Many of the Far Right in the West today are inspired by and see President Trump as their poster child. He has certainly done a lot to instill Islamophobia and hatred against the Muslims by his various actions such as his anti-Muslim statements, very pro-Zionist stance and the ban on Muslims from at least seven countries to visit the USA.

President Trump may have sent his “condolences and warmest sympathy” to the people of New Zealand on the terror incident. But he is seen by many to be culpable or at least partially responsible for creating an atmosphere of hatred and racism against

Muslims and promoting xenophobia with his Border Wall idea with Mexico.

The purpose of Trump’s Islamophobia or racism is to distract, confuse and divide & rule in order to stave off serious challenges to his presidency including allegations on his abuse of power, obstruction to justice and on the possible outcome of Russia investigation which may include impeachment.

I have written many press articles on why we should not take peace for granted, the importance of mutual-racial respect and the need to recognise the cultural diversity of Asia, with Malaysia as a mini-Asia, as a strength for our survival and progress and never as a weakness or liability. We must never allow our cultural diversity to be exploited by extremists of any shades to create conflict, wars and terror like what has happened in New Zealand.

Most people take peace for granted. We were shaken and shocked when our own MH17 was cruelly shot down in 2014 in a war fought more than 8,000 kilometres away.

There have also been numerous terror attacks in our neighbouring countries recently. Recent police arrests of suspected terrorists in Malaysia should send alarm bells ringing to the authorities concerned. We must never sit back and assume our multi-racial country is immune from such acts of terror.

There is hardly any populated place on earth that is safe from the extremists of all

shades who are motivated to be mass-murderers based on their extreme right-wing political or religious ideologies which would include the misinterpretations of religious teachings.

More needs to be done to analyse and understand the real causes of extremism and to promote sustainable peace and multi-cultural understanding. Possible ways are via press articles, civil debates in the new media, peace forums and talks, innovative peace museums and centres promoting cultural diversity as a bulwark against extremism.

K.K.Tan is a political analyst and CEO of a social enterprise proposing an anti-extremism, peace and cultural diversity museum at Carcosa Seri Negara, Kuala Lumpur as part of Asian Peace, Arts and Cultural-Heritage (APAC) Park. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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