A relative weeps while showing the picture of Sohail Shahid, a Pakistani citizen who was killed in Christchurch mosque shootings. Picture: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary
A relative weeps while showing the picture of Sohail Shahid, a Pakistani citizen who was killed in Christchurch mosque shootings. Picture: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

‘We warned you’: White nationalist threat we’ve ignored

A FESTERING hive of terrorism ignored by our leaders caused the sickening scenes of violence in New Zealand on Friday, security experts have warned.

Like September 11 and the Bali bombings before it, the Christchurch mosque shootings, which left 50 people dead, should represent a turning point in our attitude towards terrorism, Islamic politics professor Greg Barton told news.com.au.

But he and other security experts have warned the risk of copycat right-wing-inspired terror attacks is now "extremely high", and our leaders could have done something about it a long time ago.

Experts say Friday’s shooting should be a wake up call to the threat of right-wing terrorism. Picture: AP Photo/Vincent Thian
Experts say Friday’s shooting should be a wake up call to the threat of right-wing terrorism. Picture: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Politicians have been almost exclusively focused on the threat of Muslim extremists in their bid to stop terrorism while the threat of white nationalist groups has grown.

Anjum Rahman of the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand (IWCNZ) said the world was warned that something like the Christchurch shooting was bound to happen sooner or later.

In a fiery op-ed for The Spinoff, she wrote that the IWCNZ sent a comprehensive report to New Zealand's Ministry of Social Development five years ago about a "rising levels of discrimination" against Muslims from social media vitriol and the alt-right.

A relative weeps while showing the picture of Sohail Shahid, a Pakistani citizen who was killed in Christchurch mosque shootings. Picture: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary
A relative weeps while showing the picture of Sohail Shahid, a Pakistani citizen who was killed in Christchurch mosque shootings. Picture: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

She met consistently with national government figures and high profile public services since then to ask for increased resources to be put towards monitoring alt-right groups.

"We begged and pleaded, we demanded," she said. "We knocked on every door we could, we spoke at every forum we were invited to."

She doesn't believe the warnings were listened to and she's demanding to know what resources and programs were put in place to deal with the threat.

The feeling that alt-right terrorism has been ignored is not unique to New Zealand and populist statements from politicians may have even encouraged it with anti-Muslim rhetoric, according to Prof Barton.

"When we have ministers annoyingly saying things they know to be untrue because it plays better politically, then you're on a slippery slope," he told news.com.au.

"It is hate speech and it works to incite hatred and it doesn't help anyone."

In the wake of Friday's atrocity, he said Australia needed to step up its battle against hate crimes - as there was no reliable way of measuring and defining it.

 

"If we had a national database for hate crime, we could geographical hot spots and there's usually a pattern of violence you can follow which helps detect terrorist threats," he said.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter need to pick up their game too, Prof Barton said.

The new algorithms used by social media sites are pushing edgier and more extreme content to the top of our feeds.

"It's understandable because that's how their advertising revenue is distributed," he said.

"But we need to say: 'Look you guys are experts in this area. It shouldn't be the case that a livestream of a terror attack is being broadcast on Facebook.'

"They are not doing enough. It is not working."

Because social media has allowed terrorists to spread their message, Prof Barton fears the footage of the Christchurch shooting and the posting of a manifesto online, could inspire copycats.

He said far-right terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, also tried to inspire others by posting a manifesto.

"He didn't get the following he wanted because his actions - shooting young people on an island - were unpopular among the far-right community," he said.

"I fear that shooting dead Muslims in a mosque will prove more popular in that subculture."

Professor Richard Jackson from the University of Otago said white nationalism was a threat the world had ignored.

"I think the lesson from this (Friday's shooting) is something that all Western governments need to take. We know they haven't been taking this lesson seriously enough until recently," he told ABC News.

People of all religions have condemned the shootings. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images
People of all religions have condemned the shootings. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images

"The threat from right-wing and white nationalist groups is extremely high. We know from looking at the budgets and looking at the powers that have been given to security agencies, and looking at the resources that they put into different areas, they have focused almost entirely, and exclusively, on the threat from Muslim extremists and now we're seeing that in actual fact, they ought to be directing a great deal of resources to looking at the threat of nationalist groups."