Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > impact on women / resistance > New Zealand: Christchurch conclusion

New Zealand: Christchurch conclusion

A view from Pakistan

Sunday 30 August 2020, by siawi3


Christchurch conclusion


29 Aug 2020

ON Thursday, the white supremacist who killed 51 people and injured dozens more in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Over the three days prior, scores of emotionally charged victim impact statements were heard in court. Delivering the first such and highest prison sentence in the country’s history, the judge said that such punishment was reserved for only the “very worst murders”. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that it meant the convicted killer would have “no notoriety, no platform ... Today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist”. Thus concluded the legal proceedings of an attack that irrevocably altered not only the lives of the survivors and victims’ families, but also the nation itself.

The solidarity New Zealanders extended one another in the wake of tragedy, as well as the collective shunning of any attempt to rationalise the killer’s deeds — as is symptomatic of Western media coverage when the perpetrator is white — is a template for how countries should respond to Islamophobia and other forms of racism. Beyond mere calls for tolerance of diversity, Kiwis have emphatically upheld the rights of their fellow Muslims. It was the victims, not the attacker, who were foregrounded in news coverage, public policy responses and trial proceedings. There are lessons for non-Western, security-centric countries to draw from too. Justice — centred not on the state but on people — was seen to be done, in which killers were not glorified, affectees were heard, truth was aired, and traumas to the national psyche given a chance to heal. Contrast this with the manner in which trials and inquiry commissions into public tragedies, from terrorist attacks to plane crashes, are conducted elsewhere — away from the public gaze, with the full facts rarely submitted to the public record. Not only does this erode trust in institutions, it also denies survivors and victims’ families answers — and closure.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2020