You’ll have to forgive me, these won’t be my best words. The truth is, I don’t want to be talking today. When I was asked if it was something I wanted to do, I resisted it all day until finally I had this overwhelming sense that it was something in my responsibility to do so and maybe that’s misguided.
But of all the things I could say tonight, that I’m gutted and I’m scared and I feel overcome with utter hopelessness, the most dishonest thing, the most dishonest thing would be to say that I’m shocked. I’m simply not.
There’s nothing about what happened in Christchurch today that shocked me. I wasn’t shocked when six people were shot to death at a mosque in Quebec City two years ago. I wasn’t shocked when a man drove a van into Finsbury Park mosque in London about six months later and I wasn’t shocked when 11 Jews were shot dead in a Pittsburgh synagogue late last year or when nine Christians were killed at a church in Charleston. If we’re honest, we’ll know this has been coming.
I went to the mosque today, I do that every Friday just like the people in those mosques in Christchurch today. I know exactly what those moments before the shooting began would have been like. I know how quiet, how still, how introspective those people would have been before they were suddenly gunned down, how separated from the world they were feeling until the world came in and tore their lives apart.
And I know the people who did this knew well enough how profoundly defenseless their victims were in that moment. This is a congregational prayer that happens every week like clockwork. This was slaughter by appointment. And it’s scary because, like millions of other Muslims, I’m going to keep attending those appointments and it feels like fish in a barrel.
But that isn’t the scariest thing. The thing that scared me most was when I started reading the manifesto that one of the apparent perpetrators of this attack published, not because it was deranged but because it was so familiar. Let me share some quotes with you to show you what I mean.
"The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith. It is the religious equivalent of fascism," or, "The real cause of bloodshed is the migration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate in the first place." Or, "As we read in Matthew 26:52: 'All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword'. And those who follow a violent religion that causes them to murder us cannot be surprised when somebody takes them at their word and responds at kind."
How do those words sound now? Now how do they sound when I tell you that they weren’t part of the manifesto? They were actually published today after this terrorist attack on Australian parliamentary letterhead. And I know they came from someone who I don’t particularly want to name at the moment, who all parties have denounced. I also know that the leader of one of those parties that denounced him once described Islam as a disease Australia needs to vaccinate. And even that party is kind of on the fringes despite some valiant attempts by our media to change that.
But I also know a senior figure in our government once suggested we made a mistake as a country by letting in Lebanese Muslims in the 70s. And I know there are media reports going back eight years at a shadow cabinet meeting in which another senior politician suggested his party should use community concerns about Muslims in Australia failing to integrate as a political strategy. That person is now the most senior politician we have.
So while I appreciate the words our leaders have said today, and in particular Scott Morrison’s comments and his preparedness to call this terrorism and the strength of his comments more generally, I have something to ask. Don’t change your tune now because the terrorism seems to be coming from a white supremacist. If you’ve been talking about being "tough on terrorism" for years in the communities that allegedly support it, show us how tough you are now.
For [me], I’m going to say the same thing I said about four years ago after a horrific Islamist attack. Now, now we come together. Now we understand that this is not a game, terrorism doesn’t choose its victims selectively, that we are one community and that everything we say to try to tear people apart, demonise particular groups, set them against each other, that all has consequences even if we’re not the ones with our fingers on the trigger.