Asia Reacts to Christchurch Terrorist Attacks

New Zealand witnessed the worst mass shooting on its soil on Friday when a lone gunman and alleged white supremacist killed 50 worshippers at two mosques and injured at least 50 others in a terrorist attack in the city of Christchurch. Since the attack, there has been an outpouring of international support with vigils taking place around the world in solidarity with the victims. World leaders were quick to offer support shortly after the attack. Many Muslim-majority countries in Asia – including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan – strongly condemned the attacks, with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan blaming this and other attacks against Muslims on the “current Islamophobia post-9/11.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the acts of the “extremist, right-wing violent terrorist.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also offered his condolences to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, while South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed that South Korea would “continue to take part in the international community’s efforts to combat international terrorism.” Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang also sent messages of condolences to New Zealand’s Governor General Patsy Reddy and to Prime Minister Ardern.

In New Zealand, stories about the victims and their acts of heroism are beginning to be shared widely as policy-makers in the country and around the world now discuss measures to curb religious extremism and violence and the spread of hate-speech online. In a step towards the eradication of such activities, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday announced she will refuse to use the attackers name in a move meant curb the visibility desired by terrorist attackers. Prime Minister Ardern as well announced gun law reforms to prevent future mass shootings. Discussions now are turning towards the control and removal of the live-stream video of the attack taken by the attacker on Facebook and YouTube. Some Facebook and YouTube users continue to share the video online even as PM Ardern and other policy-makers urge that people stop doing so. Early on March 20, two people from New Zealand were arrested in relation to re-sharing the attack video online and inciting racial disharmony following the attack. Policy-makers in New Zealand and worldwide are using this attack to call for greater accountability from social media websites where hateful content is often spread. Facebook and YouTube in response have mentioned that they continue to remove any uploads of the attack live-stream on their websites.