A massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday has left 50 people dead and many others injured. Attacks such as these, targeting Muslim worshippers, are becoming far too common.
But some of the responses have been completely inappropriate. Instead of sympathy, some have worked either to distance themselves from these attacks or to point fingers and assign blame. Soon after the attacks occurred, there were statements from New Zealand stating that the alleged shooter was an Australian, not a New Zealander.
Later on Friday, Australian Sen. Fraser Anning blamed Muslim immigration for the tragedy. “Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” he stated in a tweet.
A lengthy manifesto written by the alleged shooter has detailed references to a far-right ideology and white supremacy. Understanding this motivation is an important part in preventing similar attacks from happening in the future.
But some on the political right have stated that the actions of the shooter should not be seen as a representation of right-wing politics. Rush Limbaugh, an American conservative commentator and talk show host, went even further. In a broadcast on March 15 – only hours after the massacre – Limbaugh speculated the shooter was someone from the political left, committing the horrible deeds in order to make his political opponents look bad.
Such speculation is not only implausible but also extremely cruel and insensitive, using a tragedy as a political positioning tool.
Assigning blame does nothing to explain why this tragedy happened, nor can it undo or alter the events which unfolded on Friday.
Being able to identify the shooter’s nationality or ethnic background or politics will not reduce the number who died or alleviate the grief their families and friends are experiencing, nor will it minimize the injuries of those who were wounded in the attacks.
It is understandable to feel sadness, shock, horror, revulsion, anger or confusion when massive acts of violence occur.
The quest to point fingers and place blame will benefit nobody.