This morning, before I could digest what happened in New Zealand and mourn the victims of the mosque massacre, I was tasked with the unfortunate duty to read through the murderer’s hate manifesto.
We all know that these acts of violence never occur in isolation, so I was looking for international and ideological connections between this terrorist and other white nationalist movements. They were easy to find: Anders Breivik, Dylann Roof, Robert Gregory Bowers and Wade Michael Page.
Whether it's ISIS, Nazi fascism, or any other ideology of racial and religious supremacy: hate has the same DNA. Perpetrators of ethno-nationalist violence, whether in Raqqa, Pittsburg, Charleston S.C., or Christchurch, New Zealand all espouse a fundamental narrative that can be described as Trojan Horse ideology meets clash of civilizations.
The New Zealand killer starts his manifesto, just like ISIS propaganda videos do, with a poem. Its scattered with reference to raped European women, references to fallen soldiers from Vienna in 1683, and declares that there are no true men in Europe until Constantinople (his name of Istanbul) is reconquered.
He proudly invokes Pope Urban II, the founder of the crusades, and echoes the Turner Diaries as he hopes his attacks will unleash a race war in the United States. ISIS and al-Qaeda, likewise, fantasize of sparking sectarian civil wars and romanticize of glorious medieval mythologies that never actually existed.
While the world categorically rejects this type of ideology and violence, as global citizens we must do all that we can to take back control of our public spaces. Whether in media, popular culture, or politics we need to be vigilant and not allow the poisonous rhetoric of ethno-nationalist extremism invade our public square.
Many will look to this incident as an act of one isolated, deranged killer. However, we should take proactive steps to isolate this hateful rhetoric and push it back into the caves that it came from.
The first way to do that is to invest in understanding the problem. It is compounded by the fact that a number of states don’t even have hate crimes legislation on the books. Just recently a young Indiana man of Afghan heritage was murdered in cold blood while his killer was hurling anti-Muslim slurs. The case barely received national attention.
But while we wait for Congress to strengthen hate crime legislation and perhaps one day, lead by example, there are many things we can do in the private and community spheres to ensure that these ideas are shunned.
Just this week Fox News received yet another set of bruises to its reputation when two of its anchors — Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson — were both found guilty in the public court for advancing seemingly anti-immigrant and Islamophobic ideas.
Fox didn’t fire either of them and while some advertisers have walked away, they are moving slow. This sort of complacency sends a not so subtle signal, a green light, to those who indulge in white supremacist rhetoric. But there are others who can help as well. Social media platforms and internet service providers are starting to move in the right direction by flagging more hateful content and now allowing their platforms to be exploited by far-right groups.
Most recently, large charitable funds are increasing their awareness about the ways that hate groups are operating under the cover of being legitimate non-profit organizations and thus exploiting the foundations of American philanthropy.
It's time to push hate rhetoric and ideologies of extremism to the margins, rather than letting them remain in the mainstream.
Abbas Barzegar, Ph.D. is the national director of research and advocacy at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).