Sofia Maietta ’19
An attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, March 15 left 50 people dead and another 50 wounded in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting in modern history. The gunman was 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, an Australian citizen who authored an 87-page manifesto espousing clear anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments. Tarrant live-streamed the attack with a head-mounted camera, and the footage was broadcast online briefly on sites such as Facebook. He used two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm to carry out the attack. Tarrant was taken from the scene alive and appeared in court on Saturday, March 16 facing one count of murder, with more charges pending. He is set to reappear in court on April 5. Two other people were arrested in connection to the shooting and remain in custody, but authorities have yet to determine their exact involvement in the massacre.
Syed Mazharuddin, one of the survivors who was worshipping at the Linwood mosque, recalled heroic efforts on the part of another worshipper to disarm the gunman. “The young guy who usually takes care of the mosque … he saw an opportunity and pounced on [the gunman] and took his gun. The hero tried to chase and he couldn’t find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled,” he stated.
Another survivor, 19-year-old Muhammad Luthfan Fadhli of Indonesia described his frantic attempt to escape. “There were many people falling and getting shot right next to me, behind me. There were just bullets flying everywhere, so I just ran as fast as I could, barefooted. Later that night I couldn’t sleep until 4 a.m. or something. And then I realized, it could have been me who was killed, it could have been anybody. I could have died and not seen my family again, anything could have happened.” Speaking of his friend who was killed in the attacks, Fadhli stated, “He is a good man, he’s very religious and attends every Friday prayer that happens every week. It’s just unfair you know, he didn’t deserve it really. I thought that New Zealand was the safest country in the world, they say. I never thought this kind of thing would happen in such a peaceful country.”
Since the massacre, countless political leaders and public figures across the world have spoken out denouncing the violence as well as the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and white supremacist ideas that Tarrant embraced. However, not everyone had positive things to say about immigrants and the Muslim community in the aftermath of the shooting. Australian Senator Fraser Anning has drawn sharp criticism in recent days from countless politicians and world leaders for his public statements regarding the shooting. On Twitter, Anning released a statement saying, “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
In response to the shootings, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the country’s legislature would be introducing gun reform in the coming week, including a possible ban on semi-automatic weapons. Ardern stated, “As a cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear. The terrorist attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores. It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws. The clear lesson from history around the world is that to make our community safe, the time to act is now.”