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The hypocrisy of New Zealand's 'this is not us' claim

53 168 2150
20.03.2019

In response to what has been described as New Zealand's biggest terrorist attack, in which 50 people were gunned down in two mosques in the city of Christchurch, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern declared:

"We were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things."

As a Muslim who grew up in New Zealand this statement didn't sit well with me. Over the years, I've heard it repeated by Kiwis in a ritualistic fashion, always praising the values of multicultural society. I also hear similar self-congratulatory statements in Australia where I'm now based.

This same narcissistic self-view has often prompted New Zealanders and Australians to declare that I must be "glad" to be in their respective countries. After all, they see Afghanistan, where I come from, as the land of "burqas", intolerance and fundamentalist violence.

In our "post"-colonial reality, racism still determines who "we" are and who "they" must be. It is what produces statements like Ardern's "this is not us" that seek to absolve, reject responsibility and shame, and replace them with fragile innocence and even pride.

It is what preserves the comforting conviction that extremism and violence are only features of "backward" societies; "our" civilised societies in New Zealand, Australia and the "West" do not espouse such barbarism and the few of "us" who do, do not represent "us" and are not a product of "our" cultures.

What struck me about Ardern's statement - and the many others like it praising diversity, the welcoming nature of Kiwis, and a provincial shire with a small tight-knit community - is how dishonest it is.

While Muslims were made part of her collective "we", this recent inclusion only emphasised their status as the "other".

Although Islam has a century-long presence in the country, Muslims........

© Al Jazeera