Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > Uncategorised > Australia: What do we do when the terrorist is “one of us”? (and other hard (...)

Australia: What do we do when the terrorist is “one of us”? (and other hard questions in the aftermath of the Christchurch shooting)

The deadly myth of “White Genocide”

Thursday 11 April 2019, by siawi3


What do we do when the terrorist is “one of us”? (and other hard questions in the aftermath of the Christchurch shooting)

Joshua Roose

Posted Thu 21 Mar 2019, 4:36pm
Updated Thu 21 Mar 2019, 4:36pm

Image: Brenton Tarrant in court

The man charged with the Christchurch massacre, Brenton Tarrant, in the dock for his appearance for murder in the Christchurch District Court on 16 March 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Many millions of words have already been written or spoken about the horrific terror attack in Christchurch less than a week ago, and just about every conceivable angle has been covered. From the terrorist’s upbringing in small town New South Wales, his manifesto and use of social media to distribute his manifesto, to the political response, communal and collective pain and ― all too often, last ― the victims themselves.

Australians have been forced to confront the fact that, irrespective of the attack occurring overseas and the lengthy absence from our shores, this man is one of us ― if by “us” we refer to the white Australian majority. His name was Brenton Tarrant.

Given the call by the New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern not to use his name, it was important to consider whether to do so here. I do so for two reasons. First, it brings home the reality that this man, who committed this act of terror in the name of white nationalism, was an Anglo-Australian man. This ties into the second point: namely, that we have not refused to use the name of Muslim terrorists and so we should avoid a double standard in naming only those associated with Islamic extremism. Compellingly, his actions in Christchurch have been described by the Australian Prime Minister in these terms:

Scott Morrison

· Mar 15, 2019

I’m horrified by the reports I’m following of the serious shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins.

Scott Morrison


I condemn the violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack that has stolen the lives of so many innocent New Zealanders as they went about their peaceful practice of worship at their mosques in Christchurch today.
8:09 AM - Mar 15, 2019

The terrorist, Tarrant, was born 28 years ago and raised in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales in Grafton, a regional town that has produced many brilliant scholars, musicians, activists, sports stars and even a short-lived Prime Minister. Stanton played rugby league (albeit, apparently, not successfully), overcame weight issues (which he was apparently bullied over) and the loss of his father to suicide ― a blight on Australian regional towns and related to his suffering of Asbestosis. He became a successful local personal trainer, earning respect from his clients. He was, by some accounts an avid follower of heavy metal music. For many, the story might end at this point, as they settle into married life locally or maybe move to the city for university and a career. However, this individual chose to use funds left to him from his father’s estate to invest and to travel, both central tropes in the lifeblood and culture of young Australians.

Some locals and family members recall that Tarrant played violent video games and had trouble with women ― though, in reality, this could conceivably cover a large percentage of Australian men at some point. We do not yet know at what point the terrorist started to engage with the dark world of far-right extremist narratives and why they resonated with him so strongly. We do know that these narratives claim that we are in the midst of a “white genocide” and that whites are simultaneously being bred out of existence and are complicit in their destruction through the adoption of multiculturalism. Whether Tarrant first became radicalised in France, seeing high levels of immigration and being in the same region when jihadist terror attacks occurred as he claims, or whether it was at home, prior to this, we do not know.

Indeed, a number of commentators have argued that any efforts to understand Tarrant’s origins and the potential impact of bullying act to pathologise him, rendering Tarrant psychologically “abnormal,” as not one of “us” and so excusing a wider endemic culture of deep-seated racism, hostility and hatred directed toward Australian Muslims for two decades.

It is important to understand the individual, but these commentators, many of whom come from Muslim communities, have a strong point. This individual was not raised in a bubble and has been exposed throughout his teenage years to a high level of vitriolic political sentiment directed toward Australian Muslims. Yet, as we so often note in relation to Muslim communities, the vast majority of white Australians do not become terrorists or join far right extremist groups. Perhaps, given the normalisation of anti-Muslim sentiment, those who might be sympathetic to such sentiment do not feel the need to do so.

This individual is clearly, unequivocally, a white nationalist terrorist, born and raised on our shores and one for whom we have a profound collective obligation to reflect on how our society produced. An egg to the head of a hate-filled far-right politician might be cheered on by many, but it does not act to collectively absolve wider society ― “us” ― of our responsibilities. It is no substitute for deep reflection as to the depth of hatred and distrust that continues to exist in our society.

The flipside

In the maelstrom of emotion and media coverage that has dominated airtime, radio and newspaper coverage of the Christchurch attack, it is easy to overlook the unfortunate reality that the eyes of the world were already firmly fixed another Australian terrorist, Neil Prakash.

Prakash, by way of contrast, has never really been viewed as one of “us.” Born in Melbourne to a Fijian-Indian father whom he did not associate with, and Cambodian mother and raised in Springvale South, a highly multicultural suburb in Melbourne’s outer south eastern suburbs, Prakash was bullied at school before dropping out and becoming an apprentice mechanic, while rapping, using drugs and associating with a local gang. Prakash converted to Islam, associating with a local radical bookshop, before travelling to Syria just six months later in 2013.

On the day of the Christchurch attack, Prakash was convicted in Turkey of being a member of the Islamic State. Recently at the centre of efforts to strip him of his status as an Australian citizen, Prakash was a prolific recruiter for the Islamic State. Australians were known to not only be among the best represented (per capita) of any Western nation in the Islamic State movement, but to be at the centre of many atrocities including the sexual enslavement and genocide of the Yazidi people, public executions and torture.

Prakash incited acts of terror across the West from New York, where he was linked to a failed Statue of Liberty terror plot, to Melbourne, where he is linked to Numan Haider, who attacked two police officers in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs, and the failed ANZAC Day terror plot. Asked about Prakash in late 2016, then Attorney General George Brandis stated, “if you wanted to describe him, as Australia’s number one terrorist you wouldn’t be far off the mark.”

Two sides of the same coin?

Brenton Tarrant (28) and Neil Prakash (27) represent, one would think, opposite ends of the spectrum of experience for young Australian men. One from the heartland of river country in the northern New South Wales town of Grafton where 87 per cent of the population were born in Australia, and one from multicultural, suburban Springvale South where just 37 per cent of the population were born in Australia. Yet both were socially marginalised with complex family issues. Both shared a deep-seated anger and hatred and found meaning in positioning themselves as warriors, as defenders of women and children, and as defenders of their faith against an aggressive enemy “other.”

In an Islamic State propaganda film shot in 2015, Prakash stated:

You must start attacking before they attack you. Look how much of your sisters have been violated. All I hear on the news in Australia is that this sister was hurt. This sister was hurt, hijab was ripped off. But no, you see the brothers sitting. And I ask you brothers. When is the time you are going to rise up and attack them for them attacking you … So kill this disbeliever, this one that denies Allah, this one that makes shirk [practice of idolatry], bid’ah [innovation], the one that associates idols with Allah. You kill him.

In a remarkably similar frame, Tarrant, referencing attacks on European women by Muslim men would state in his so-called “manifesto”:

Finally I would like to send a message to the perpetrators of these attacks, and their families. You will hang. If you are released we will find you and kill you, if you are in prison we will reach you there, if you try to hide these rapist scum we will kill you as well. For the disgrace you have heaped upon the European people and the distress you have caused to European women, you will die.


There are many more similarities between the two actors in the narrative framing of what they perceive to be their battle that will come out, and should do so through peer-reviewed research. The main point that may be considered for now is how it is that Australian men at such opposite ends of the spectrum of Australian life have come to such a similar point and committed to violence and terrorism that has shocked the world, with this in many ways coming to head on the same day ― a Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.

Questions that must be asked

It is an uncomfortable reality that Brenton Tarrant comes from the majority white culture that predominates in Australia (this may not necessarily be surprising news to indigenous, Muslim or other communities affected by racist rhetoric and violence on a daily basis). As numerous studies have shown, Tarrant had, by the fact of his race, a range of opportunities available to him ― including improved access to education, employment opportunities and, it seems, the ability to evade the blanket surveillance that has been focussed on Muslim communities in Australia and New Zealand. Yet he has chosen to act with extreme violence against innocent worshippers and inflict terror on Muslims more generally.

If Neil Prakash, now imprisoned, can be described as “Australia’s number one terrorist” and have his citizenship revoked, then what avenue can the government take in relation to Tarrant, a foreign fighter in a self-proclaimed war against Muslims? Is he now Australia’s “number one terrorist”? Can his citizenship to be revoked? Are we to seek to extradite him to somewhere in Europe?

Furthermore, if Australian Muslims are expected to distance themselves from terrorism and renounce extremist political sentiment as part of the compact of social cohesion, then what is required for Australian society to renounce extremist political discourse and actions as a whole?

This would require a paradigm shift in understanding that terrorism, in this case, has come from the majority culture and the majority culture has to dig it out by the roots. Do we take responsibility for the act of Tarrant in the way that we ask Muslim communities to do? If we fail to do so, do we, as Scott Stephens has suggested, become complicit in evil? These are questions that the United States, experiencing a rapid increase of far-right extremist terrorism, has failed to answer and we can see the result there in the form of increased momentum for far-right extremism.

In the tidal wave of information that has hit us and that will continue for some time, it is easy to get lost in detail and for the broader key issues to be lost or, worse, dismissed. We have a responsibility as a society to ask the difficult questions not only about how we are producing a cohort of angry men capable of such violence that we invite the world’s attention, but about what we as a society stand for when the extremists and terrorists look, sound and speak like us, as the cultural and racial majority.

Joshua Roose is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Australian Catholic University.



The deadly myth of “White Genocide”

Julie Nathan

Posted Tue 19 Mar 2019, 4:56pm
Updated Tue 19 Mar 2019, 6:20pm

Image: The Botanic Gardens in Christchurch
The wall at the Botanic Gardens on 18 March 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand, after 50 people were confirmed dead and a further 50 injured following shooting attacks on two mosques on Friday, 15 March 2019.

The myth that there is a conspiracy to commit genocide against people of European ethnicity is not only dangerous but deadly. It has now claimed the lives of 50 Muslims in New Zealand.

The myth is known by various names: White Genocide, White Replacement, Ethnic Genocide, Ethnic Replacement and Demographic Replacement. But they all refers to the same thing ― the paranoid fantasy that European peoples in Europe, North America and Australasia are deliberately being “replaced” through the “importation” especially of Africans, Asians and Arabs into European ethnic majority countries, for the express purpose of destroying European culture, and subjugating and decimating those of European ethnicity.

While there was a wave of immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East into Western countries in the wake of the carnage in Syria, there has been no conspiracy or plot of any kind to replace or annihilate indigenous Europeans or ethnic Europeans elsewhere.

I’ve been raising the dangers of this myth persistently for almost eight months, first in August last year and then again in October after the murderous rampage in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last month, I issued another warning. Has it had to take the murder of 50 more innocent people, this time Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, for “White Genocide” finally to be recognised as an ideology that leads to murder and terrorism?

Those who subscribe to the “White Genocide” myth often see the solution in terms of what they term “White Revolution” and “Race War.” They advocate instigating violence and a civil war between the majority ethnic Europeans and the various minorities of non-European ethnicity. The term “Race War” is often used in the acronym GTKRWN (“Gas The Kikes, Race War Now”), as a signal and code that “the Jews” (derogatively referred to as “kikes”) are the prime enemy, and hence are the ones to be targeted and annihilated in order to win the “Race War.”

Why the Jews? Because many on the far-right not only imagine a conspiracy to replace ethnic Europeans with Muslims and non-Europeans, but also imagine that “the Jews are behind it.” This has already led to the murder of many Jews, most notoriously in a Pittsburgh synagogue, as well as to calls for the annihilation of all Jews as the only means to save “the European race” in some kind of existential war.

Many racist mass murderers who have engaged in what is referred to as “leaderless resistance” (which is code for acts of terrorism) have hoped that their acts would spark this “Race War” ― these include Dylann Roof, Robert Bowers, James Jackson and now Brenton Tarrant, to name just some. Thus far, despite the propaganda and terrorism, fortunately no such war has come to pass.

The idea that one act of mass murder ― of African-Americans, Jews, Muslims or others ― would spark a “Race War” relies on other people with a similar or the same ideology and belief in a “Race War” to follow suit and commit acts of violence or murder. If this occurs and there is an ineffective response by law enforcement agencies, it is not inconceivable that there could be retaliation by other fanatics supposedly acting in defence of targeted minorities. The situation could then snow-ball and escalate into chronic civil strife.

Already, since Tarrant’s terrorist act, Australia has seen some ramping up of rhetoric, threats and violence. Even though Tarrant executed his attack in New Zealand, he is an Australian, born and raised. A man in Adelaide who voiced support for the massacre by Tarrant, and who possessed weapons, has since been arrested. Another man drove his car into the gates of a mosque in Brisbane and yelled anti-Muslim abuse at the people there. A call by some Muslims in Australia for retaliatory attacks does not bode well either.

The concern, and crucial problem, is the increasing sense of desperation among those who subscribe to the “White Genocide” myth. In their fevered imaginations many of them feel that their backs are against the wall and that, with no way out, they have no alternative but to fight. When enough of them feel that way, there will be violence, murder and mayhem in our streets. Cities once relatively free of civil strife could end up looking like cities damaged by urban warfare and terrorism.

Brenton Tarrant, in his 2019 manifesto ― titled “The Great Replacement” ― on page 50, demands:

The invaders must be removed from European soil, regardless from where they came or when they came. Roma, African, Indian, Turkish, Semitic or other. If they are not of our people, but live in our lands, they must be removed … How they are removed is irrelevant, peacefully, forcefully, happily, violently or diplomatically. They must be removed.

Throughout the manifesto, Tarrant consistently calls for violence and killing, including the murder of children, until the European “ethno-nationalists” have won the “Race War.”

This is not just a Muslim problem, nor a Jewish problem, nor an African or Indian problem. It is a problem for all people within societies where intolerance of the other and racism and bigotry take hold. It becomes a problem when it is not recognised or acknowledged, and where it is allowed to fester and spread without it being addressed and countered. It is a problem we need to face together, as one people, as fellow-citizens and fellow human beings. The alternative ― of being caught up in a bloody and deadly “Race War” ― is unthinkable.

Julie Nathan is the Research Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), and author of the annual ECAJ Report on Antisemitism in Australia.