After Christchurch: When Is a Terrorist Not a Terrorist?
Von Joanna Bostock
“It is clear that this can only be described as a terrorist attack”. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern was quick to clearly categorise the killing of 49 people in two mosques in Christchurch. The victims were Muslims at Friday prayers. The alleged perpetrator is an Australian described as a right-wing extremist, whose planning for the attack included writing a 73 page manifesto.
The response on twitter to the attack was in part characterised by an outpouring of anger about the inconsistency in the use of the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism”.
This white Australian terrorist killed 49 Muslims at a mosque today in #New_Zealand and the media is calling him a "shooter” not a terrorist because he is not a Muslim, sadly world calls us terrorist, terrorism has no religion, no color, and no country.— Muhammad Umair (@MUmair0002) 15. März 2019
Is there a tendency to call Islamist attacks terrorism, and a reluctance to use the term in other cases? Are we guilty of bias? Yes, says Julia Ebner, from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank focussing on extremism: “In the last few years it is very true that the word “terrorism” hasn’t really been applied to the same extent to far-right inspired attacks as to jihadist inspired attacks.”
Far-right terrorism, according to counter- terrorism advisor Yan St. Pierre, is seen as a different kind of threat, which in part explains why social media platforms were slow to take down the footage of the attack livestreamed by the attacker, and why it was actually broadcast on TV.
“I think a lot of people have learned the lesson when it’s related to Islamist terrorism that we don’t want to spread the ISIS propaganda, but when it comes to far-right terrorism, or even left-wing terrorism, the lessons haven’t been there. There was a similar attack on the Quebec City mosque in Canada in January 2017 where to this day (the trial ended a few weeks ago) people remain reluctant to describe the attack as terrorist. There are legal issues with this - people say you have to be at least three people or a recognised association for it to be considered terrorism. Those criteria are outdated and need to be adjusted accordingly."
St. Pierre says Prime Minister Ardern was right to describe the Christchurch attack as terrorist: “There is no doubt about the attacker’s political motives, laid bare by the manifesto and the pictures offering a tribute to other far-right terrorists. In this case, there was enough evidence to allow a quick labelling of this attack and to publicly describe it as terrorism. The question however will be whether or not he will be charged for terrorism offences as opposed to only murder charges."
„There is no doubt about the attacker’s political motives, laid bare by the manifesto and the pictures offering a tribute to other far-right terrorists.“
Yan St. Pierre foresees an increase in attacks like the mosque shooting in Christchurch, and points out that the frequency and violence of such attacks in recent years has been on the rise. Perhaps if the lesson is learned and the terrorist definition is applied, more effort and resources might be dedicated to preventing them.
Publiziert am 15.03.2019