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Histories of violence

  • Published at 11:00 pm March 15th, 2019
A place of peace, not violence
A place of peace, not violence REUTERS

What happened in Christchurch was a personal attack on us all

I woke up yesterday, March 15, better rested than most days, looking forward to the weekend, when my friend and colleague broke the news of the Christchurch attack.

The attack, carried out by a 28-year-old white man from Australia, targeted Muslims during prayers, and has, at the time of writing this article, left close to 50 dead. 

The attacker labeled it an act of vengeance, terming Muslims invaders, angered by the attacks claimed by Islamic extremist groups in parts of Europe, and stating that all he was doing was retaliating, and felt no remorse at all for his actions. 

He was live-streaming as he carried out this heinous operation, while having previously provided details of his plan online in certain internet forums.

New Zealand has always, at least in my eyes, been the holy grail of peace, liberty, progressive values, and harmony. The fact that this mass shooting -- a term I became all too familiar with during my three-year stay in the United States -- took place in New Zealand momentarily left me, for the lack of a better term, confused. 

Attacks don’t take place in New Zealand, I thought to myself. No, New Zealand is supposed to be free from such problems. It’s the other countries that have these issues of hate, of intolerance. But New Zealand? No way!

Once I had gotten over my initial shock and disbelief, what I felt was cynicism, pessimism, hopelessness. 

Despite Harvard linguist and intellectual Steven Pinker’s insistence that the world today is a far better world to live in than at any other point in time during our short history on this planet, it is not easy to accept such lofty claims while such grotesque acts continue to litter the news on a daily basis. 

It seems that the world is, was, and always will be a messed-up place. But as I sat down to write, to air out my frustrations, I could not help but wonder what it was that had compelled me to turn on my laptop and begin writing.

After all, this was certainly not the first mass shooting that had taken place in my lifetime. It was not the first time I had read a story about a crazed individual who had been consumed by hatred for a particular group of people. 

It was not the first time that I had seen religion been highlighted in such terms. It was not the first time that a place of worship had been targeted and attacked.

Had I suddenly become more conscious of such incidents? No, such changes do not happen overnight.

I realized that the reason this incident had evoked such emotion in me was simply because I could relate to it more. 

Firstly, it was an attack on a mosque, and despite not being the strongest and most devout Muslim, I still identify as a Muslim, and I cannot help but take this attack personally. 

And even if I were to ignore my Muslim identity, Dhaka is the city of mosques, with one in almost every corner of every street, and has become an integral part of my everyday life. 

Secondly, came the news that the Tigers, the Bangladesh Cricket Team, were scheduled to be at the same mosque when it was attacked, and that the team bus had just pulled up to the venue when the firing started. 

Despite what some might claim, for me, all lives are not equal. For me as a Bangladeshi, the fear of losing the entire Bangladesh Cricket team, perhaps the pride and joy (and cause for frustration) of more Bangladeshis than any other singular entity, was another reason why this attack felt more personal than anything else I had seen before.

And of course, the attack being on New Zealand was the distasteful cherry on top, completely tarnishing my idea of it being some sort of peaceful utopia where such acts of violence never took place.

I consider myself an individual who is, on most occasions, indifferent to such happenstances, and tries his best to not let any incident affect him too much. 

But this time round, I was spurred to sit in front of my laptop and attack my keyboard. 

While it can be argued that this is the correct approach, to air out one’s thoughts and emotions in such a constructive manner, was it, at the end of the day, all for nothing?

As I scroll down my social media pages, I see that it is overflowing with profanities against New Zealand, against white people, against Christianity, against Islam, against religion, against atheists: Basically, if it exists, it can be hated. 

And I could see this hatred amplifying into a dangerous frenzy.

But history continues to show us that hatred will only breed more hatred. After all, the attacker did what he did because he felt that Muslims had done the same to his people in some other part of the world, and it was he who had been the victim.

Clichéd as it might be, an eye for an eye does indeed make the whole world blind.

My thoughts are with the families of the lost, because it is they who will suffer the most. It is also my request, or my hope, again to no one in particular, that instead of seeking vengeance, instead of breeding further disharmony and dissent and hatred, can we take a moment to look within ourselves, and try to understand our own discontent, so that we may attempt to reduce the hatred we so unreasonably feel for one another? 

AHM Mustafizur Rahman is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.