After the vigils, the flowers, the messages, and the grief, what happens next? Donna Miles-Mojab, an Iranian New Zealander based in Christchurch, has a list of simple yet practical steps all New Zealanders can take.
Let’s all stand “shoulder to shoulder” and circle the mosque, a friend writes. He suggests we should build a human wall, “a wall of love”, “a wall to keep hate out”.
He’s not alone. We’re all wondering and searching, seeking an outlet for the tsunami of emotions that’s swept us away from our daily lives.
Our beautiful garden city, where most people are kind and neighbourly, where people greet each other with a warm smile and a hello, is now home to a hateful massacre and one of the most dreadful terrorist attacks of our times.
Disbelief and grief have left us in a daze. But in our heart of hearts, we know we need to do something. We must act.
But what should we do? What can we do?
A vigil has been organised to remember those who lost their lives. Of course, it’s important that in time of grief people should come together and comfort one and another.
Also, metres away from the Deans Avenue mosque, people have been leaving flowers and writing touching messages. This is another important way of healing and displaying love.
But is it enough?
The answer is no. If we want to make a meaningful difference, we need to do more. We need to think deeply about what we can do together and as individuals to keep our communities and ourselves safe from hate, not only hate towards Muslims but hate in general.
The fact is that one of the most pressing issues of our time requires us to fundamentally reexamine our individual role and responsibilities. Not only as members of our community but also as citizens of the world.
I hope in the weeks and months to come, many others will contribute to this debate but for now, here are some practical steps you can take as an individual.
Crush your echo chamber
You would be surprised how much of what you believe in is based on impressionistic, rather than empirical, evidence.
Make Google your argumentative disagreeable friend, not your echo chamber.
Search to challenge your own belief. If you’re not entirely convinced by the opposing argument, then – and only then – hold on to your views.
For instance, if you think Muslim societies are more prone to violence, then try searching for the very opposite: “Muslim societies are less prone to violence” and then, maybe, among many other similar studies, you’ll come across Professor M. Steven Fish’s study which finds that Muslim societies are less prone to political and criminal violence – an advantage that’s not explained by the greater authoritarian rule. Fish concludes: “The evidence from homicide reveals that non-Muslims have something important to learn from Muslims”.
The fact is that we all have something to learn from one another, even from those we regard as our enemies. That’s why breaking ourselves free from our echo chambers is so important.
Be responsible on social media
Don’t engage with hateful posts on social media, just report it.
Social media’s algorithm is designed to promote posts with high engagements so every comment, even if it’s a rebuttal, is going to promote that post.
Don’t share, don’t engage; instead join online or local community groups that support your cause. If there are none, organise one yourself.
Support good journalism
Don’t encourage garbage journalism. It is no good rolling your eyes after you’ve clicked on or read an obviously sensationalised or shallow piece. Remember: you engage, you support, so resist the temptation and stay away from clickbait journalism. Read quality news from reputable news sites and let your local MP know that you support the call for a state-funded independent national newspaper.
Insist on diversity
We live in a diverse societ, but this diversity often isn’t reflected in our powerful institutions. We need to insist on the multiplicity of voices.
For instance, it’s unacceptable that some of the biggest newsrooms in our country are a sea of white, failing to represent the ethnic diversity of our communities. How can they fully represent the challenges faced by marginalised groups if they have no means of connecting to them or understanding their plight?
How many journalists had close Muslim contacts at the time of the mosque terrorist attacks? Not many, they would’ve been scrambling to find Muslims to talk to. The people they were never much interested in had suddenly become the biggest story of the year, if not the decade. That’s not good enough. Muslims shouldn’t have to die en masse to be represented in our media.
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