Will Christchurch be our wakeup call??

Posted on Mar 19, 2019

Paul Larudee (2010).jpgPaul Larudee writes:

Below is a powerful article by a dear friend, Rifat Audeh. Rifat and I met in Lebanon a decade or so ago, and we both were participants in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which was attacked by Israeli forces, with dozens of casualties and ten deaths, despite the fact that we were unarmed. Rifat created an award winning film about this, which is still being shown in many places.

These are only two of the facts that Rifat fails to mention. While his murdered cousin was Muslim, Rifat and extended family are Palestinian Christians.

None of these facts should matter, and I can only assume that Rifat didn’t mention them because he felt they shouldn’t matter. And they shouldn’t, but they do to a lot of people.

    [Oops! Rifat informs me that he is Muslim, not Christian. But as he says, that proves the point. I’ve known him for a decade and didn’t know his religious affiliation.

    It’s often hard to know. When I visited the towns hit by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, I found myself in a house with a picture of the virgin Mary on the wall. So I asked, “Is this a Christian house?”

    “No,” replied my guide. “They’re Muslim, but we venerate Mary here because we believe that she came here while she was pregnant with Jesus.”

    Talk about intermingling.]

In much of the Middle East, they don’t. That’s where Islam, Christianity, Judaism, the Druze religion, Zoroastrianism and related religions sprang at various times during the last 3-4 millennia. They have many beliefs in common and the people of the region recognize that to some extent they are variants of each other. Many of them celebrate each other’s festivals and intermarry. The fear experienced by westerners is largely fear of the unknown, which is not a factor in communities that have lived together for millennia.

Not that these communities haven’t fought with each other, but to a great extent such fighting has been the result of political issues and stoked by powerful interests. Nowadays, powerful outside nations dominate those interests and stoke such wars, as Rifat explains. Islamophobia, Judeophobia, hatred of Christians, Judeophobia and other sectarian hatreds are used to further imperialist aims, not only by the US and its allies, but also by regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Sadly, tolerance and mutual respect has been on the decline since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations were created after WWII. They were born out of the recognition that hatred and racism have always been tools of ambition, conquest, imperialism and warfare.

This fundamental truth has not changed, but recognition of it has dwindled dangerously. We all will pay the price.

Paul Larudee

Will Christchurch be our wakeup call??

Tuesday, 19 March 2019
by Rifat Audeh *

Yesterday I met my cousin, although he was killed in cold blood a few days ago, at the Christchurch terror attack in New Zealand. I “met” him upon visiting his aunt’s house and learnt much more about this ambitious 33-year-old whose life was cut so short.

While my cousin Atta Elayyan lived in Kuwait and later New Zealand, I was living in Jordan and North America, and we never crossed paths. During my visit, I heard about how kind and supportive he was to his family, how intelligent and ambitious he was as a tech entrepreneur establishing his own company, and how energetic and athletic he was as a member of New Zealand’s national futsal team. His father, Mohammed Elayyan, who founded the Alnoor Mosque in Christchurch, was also injured in the shooting. I struggled to hold back my tears as I saw a video of Atta’s father speaking from his hospital bed about Islam being a religion of love and the need to love one another. Mohammed had spearheaded efforts to assist the local community during the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake, providing food and shelter in the mosque to many.

I struggled to hold back my tears as I saw a video of Atta’s father speaking from his hospital bed about Islam being a religion of love and the need to love one another. Mohammed had spearheaded efforts to assist the local community during the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake, providing food and shelter in the mosque to many.

These past couple of days, I’ve been reading news items addressing this terror attack, including reports analysing how the media disproportionately blames terror attacks globally on Muslims. This propaganda is effectively brainwashing many, and increasing hate and distrust between people. Yet these reports fall short not only in their scope of what they cover but also what they fail to mention. The reports and news items mostly discuss individual terror attacks like the one committed in Christchurch. Yet in many instances they fail to mention several important points.

First, Muslims have been the biggest victims of such attacks globally. One such contrast I remember includes the January 2015 terror attacks in France, which killed 10-20 people. This was followed by a global outcry with dozens of world officials gathering in France and leading a massive march in Paris in protest. Yet in July 2016, a single terrorist attack killed close to 400 people, mostly Muslims, in Baghdad’s Karrada district. For the most part, this barely made a blip on the radar of media globally, with the victims dying silently, since this was once again just one terror attack among hundreds of others against Muslims.

Second, the fact is that many terrorist groups in the world today including ISIS, who have killed so many Muslims as they did in the aforementioned attack, have been created and supported by Western intelligence agencies. Ironically, even the name given to such groups i.e. “Islamic State of…” further divides East and West, giving non-Muslims the illusion that this is being done under the name of Islam itself or with the somehow implicit consent of Muslims.

Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, is the terror perpetrated by various Western governments—notably the USA—and their client puppet states, which continue to kill millions of people globally and throughout history. When looking at individual terrorist attacks like those committed by white supremacists in Christchurch, we must not forget that the wars and oppression waged on places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestine and elsewhere, are the epitome and manifestation of terror, practiced against civilian populations. We must never be naïve enough to accept the actions of governments when they attempt to shroud the massacres, wars and terror they perpetrate and perpetuate in a false cloak of legitimacy.

And yet, despite all of this and despite the millions of Muslims who continue to be killed by mostly white Christian men in positions of power, the vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims do not hate the West or people from other religions. This sentiment manifested itself clearly when one of the first victims to be killed at the Alnoor mosque greeted the terrorist coming to kill him with words of love saying “Hello brother”.

The attack has backfired on this white supremacist, and the love shown towards the Muslim community has exemplified his failure. My cousin leaves behind his wife and two-year-old daughter. Hopefully, if we all work together hard enough, she can grow up in a world better than ours.

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* Rifat Audeh is a lifelong human rights activist and award-winning filmmaker. His writings have appeared in various media outlets and he has a Masters degree in Media and Journalism.