MERI Statement in Response to New Zealand Tragedy

March 16, 2019

We are heartbroken, grieving, and angry in the wake of the horrifying massacre at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We are holding and honoring the 50 people who were murdered and their families and loved ones, and praying and hoping for healing for the many injured. We are particularly horrified to see yet another white supremacist attack on a place of worship. A community’s sacred space should be safe — whether it is a mosque, synagogue, church, gurdwara, or other holy place. Violation of a community prayer space uniquely and seriously impacts its congregants and the community as a whole. It sends a threatening message to all, and right now people across the globe are mourning.

In the wake of this attack, we remain more committed than ever to organize together against Islamophobia and white supremacy. We believe that is the only way we can stop these types of attacks from continuing to happen. We understand that Islamophobia is rooted in anti-Black racism, intertwined with anti-immigrant xenophobia, and that the same forces attack Jews, women, LGBTQ people, and other communities. We are fighting for safety and liberation for all of our people.

This attack did not happen only because of the actions of a few hateful individuals. This was a white supremacist attack, directly rooted in white supremacy and the Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, antisemitism, Xenophobia, and colonialism which comprise and underlie it. In attacker Brenton Tarrant’s 74-page racist manifesto, he invokes anti-immigrant tropes including the white fear that [Muslim] immigrants are “invaders” who will “replace” white people in Europe and in settler-colonial countries such as the U.S. and Australia. He also celebrated Trump as a symbol of white identity.

We must understand this attack in a broader context. As people living in the U.S., we must remember that the United States plays a particular role in a global system of Islamophobia and white supremacy, using the so-called war on terror to entrench the myth that Muslims are a violent threat. The United States has an agenda of dehumanizing Muslim people to defer criticism of long running wars and drone attacks to help our country profit from resources and geopolitical influence. It is this white supremacy that lay the groundwork for this tragic attack. It is Islamophobia that allowed the federal government to create ICE in 2002, which is now terrorizing immigrant communities across this continent. It is this ideology which the Chinese government invokes to justify its mass imprisonment of the Uyghur community in Xinjiang. It is white supremacy that led to white supremacist attacks on the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, Emanuel AME Church in 2016, and the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in 2012. It is this anti-Black and Islamophobic framework that is underneath recent attacks on congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

And, we understand that relying on law enforcement ultimately does not keep our communities safe. Police departments in the U.S. have a long-standing relationship to white supremacist ideologies, having emerged through the institutionalization of capturing and re-enslaving Africans and people of African descent seeking freedom. The connection of police departments to racism against Black, Brown, and Arab people continues today through racial profiling, mass incarceration, collaboration with ICE, and exchange programs with the Israeli military. We also note the mistreatment and abuse of transgender and non-binary people and the harassment of women wearing hijabs and modest dress at the hands of police departments here in North Carolina and beyond. Audre Lorde teaches, “for by this weapon / this illusion of some safety to be found / the heavy-footed hoped to silence us.” We agree with her that “it is better to speak.” We believe authentic relationships with one another and action aimed at breaking down systematized white supremacy are how we support and protect our people.

Therefore we call on our communities, as we sit with and move through grief and heartbreak over these precious lives lost in Christchurch, to also take action together against white supremacy in all its forms. We believe that together we can end the intertwined evils of anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, Xenophobia, and antisemitism, and that our work for liberation must be collective. We call on our communities to protect each other with love and care.