Yesterday a 19-year old man armed with an assault rifle attacked a synagogue in California, killing one person and wounding three others. Murtaza Hussain writes that the person arrested for this act had written a manifesto admitting that he had also been responsible for a recent arson attack on a mosque and that he had been inspired to act by the man who carried out the recent mass attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The connection between these two crimes screams at us to pay attention.
In the past six months there have been three mass shootings at houses of worship in Western countries — two targeting Jews and one targeting Muslims. In each case the ideology has been the same. The shooters were driven not just by white supremacy, but by a bigoted conspiracy claiming whites are being demographically “replaced” by ethnic minorities. Earnest’s manifesto is a stomach-churning blend of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, with justifications for violence liberally mixed in. He leaves no ambiguity about who inspired him. “Tarrant was a catalyst for me personally,” he wrote, referring to the New Zealand mosque shooter who left behind a similar manifesto. “He showed me that it could be done.”
FOR THE PAST several decades, Jews and Muslims living in the West have had the relative luxury of being able to fight with each other over foreign policy to the near exclusion of any other issue. Those were the halcyon days. Little did we realize that, while we clashed, the ground was slowly giving way under our feet. As my colleague Mehdi Hasan and British journalist Jonathan Freedland have written, both minority groups are today threatened by the emergence of far-right movements utterly hostile to diversity. If these movements reach critical mass, the outcome of old debates will be moot. History has already shown us where this road leads.
The argument that the members of the majority community in any nation is being ‘replaced’ and reduced to minority status, either because of lower fertility rates than other groups or immigration, turns out to be a powerful weapon in generating fear in some members of the majority. This kind of fear is not exclusive to the US. It reveals better than anything else how much privilege accrues simply due to being a member of the majority, the sense of power and control it provides. If that were not the case, few would care about changing demographics.