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Most of the world knew little about New Zealand beyond its participation in different sports events- especially rugby and cricket, or its natural beauty that attracted tourists in great numbers. But the Christchurch shooting, an act of terror, that took place very recently when a white supremacist barged into two mosques and fired indiscriminately on Muslim worshippers killing 49, brought the various nuances of the country into discussions and debates across the world. A country with zero percent crime rate against the minority Muslim population, New Zealand has never been in news for wrong reasons with regard to its domestic issues or foreign policy and even during anti-immigration crisis this country maintained its good rapport by welcoming immigrants with open arms.

The scenario of peace and tranquillity in the country can be gauged from the fact that its police remain unarmed during street patrolling and most of their activities. The last gun shooting, the people of New Zealand heard was way back in 1990 that had led to the killing of nearly fourteen civilians during a family feud between two neighbours on some domestic issues.

But everything changed within a span of fifteen minutes with an unprecedented act of terror carried out by a racist gunman who attacked congregation prayers in Christchurch leading to killing of nearly forty-nine Muslims and injuring many. It was a shock for this peaceful nation which has been built upon principles of great accommodation, co-existence and humaneness.

This incident has, once again, reminded the world that terrorism has no religion and terrorist belong to no country. Whatever be the motive of the attacker- be it white supremacy or Islamophobia, this attack beings to the fore the grim reality of our society that people are being identified, framed and killed on the basis of their ethnicity, caste, creed and religion.

In the past,  attacks of mass shooting have been carried out in US, UK Paris and in many other countries and most of which were considered as an ‘act of  terrorism’ if the attackers had Muslim names. The entire dichotomy, however, changes when a person (s) found involved in such heinous acts to be from Christian community and such acts would be termed as ‘act of violence’ and the culprits were labelled as mentally unsound, fanatic and lunatic to avoid the tag of being labelled as terrorist. The exclusivity of the term ‘terrorists’, it seems the west has designated for Muslims alone and all acts of terror carried out by people belonging to, or claiming to belong to, any other religion, ironically didn’t qualify to be termed as ‘acts of terrorism’- what duplicity! What hypocrisy!

But, given the empathy and respect for the victims as well as the resolve to fight the perpetrators, that was shown by the New Zealand government, has dented the world narrative that is largely now based on Islamaphobia and radiated a new hope in humanity and in co-existence.

Nothing remained hidden from the world as the terrorist, in the Christchurch case, live streamed this whole barbarity on social networking sites as projecting it as if he was shooting for fun with no regret. It, therefore, had become imperative on new Zealand government to label it as an act of terror and New Zealand PM deserves all praise for publicly defining it as an act of terror.

The world knows that the seeds of these hate crimes against Muslims were sown after the 9/11 attacks which gave rise to Islamophobia and world never remained the same afterwards. Borders are being sealed and wired to prevent war torn Muslim immigrants from entering safe destinations, strict visa policy against Muslims, and the rising hate-speeches and propaganda’s targeting Muslims has become a norm worldwide.

First Afghanistan, then Iraq, Libya, Syria and the list continues- the Muslim world has seen death and destruction and millions have been butchered by the war machines that claim to fight ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ and do not spare even children.

Time has come when the world needs to wake up and realize the selective usage of heavily loaded terms that tend to isolate a community just because they belong to a different religion and a different faith. Islam is a religion of peace, like most of the religions, if not all!

The writer teaches chemistry at GDC Boys, Baramulla (malikjavid86@gmail.com)

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