It is time to assert zero tolerance on racism

Phil Goff

A fortnight ago on Friday, March 15, 2019, 50 innocent men, women and children were gunned down while at prayer at their Mosques in Christchurch by a hate-filled individual for no reason other than they were Muslim.

For the Muslim community, this attack has left a heightened sense of insecurity and vulnerability.

Shock and disbelief

For all of us there is a sense of shock and disbelief that we witnessed in our own country an act of terrorism which we thought could never happen here.

The loss of life and the trauma suffered by families and the communities of the victims cannot be reversed. However, out of this tragedy we need to find positives that will help us go forward to be a better and stronger nation.

Auckland stands with Christchurch and with the Muslim community across New Zealand.

We acknowledge our City’s strong Muslim community, the largest in the country.

Auckland stands united with the community in grief and solidarity.

We must not let the actions of the pathetic and twisted individual who perpetrated the killings define our values as a people and a country.

Reaffirming support

This is the time to reaffirm our support for a multi-cultural and multi-faith nation and City. Our goal as a City is to be inclusive, to treat as equals and to treat with respect all people regardless of race, colour and creed.

As a City, we believe that diversity enriches and should not divide us. Look at how we celebrate Matariki, Polyfest and Pasifika, the Lantern Festival, Diwali and Eid Al Fitr.

Equally, it is a time to assert zero tolerance for racism. When people abuse, demean and ridicule Muslims or any other faith or ethnicity, we cannot be passive observers on the side lines.

Speak out bigotry

We need to speak out against New Zealanders who peddle bigotry, prejudice and racism. They create the environment in which the killer in Christchurch felt vindicated in what he did. Nor should we welcome or do anything to facilitate alt-right or any other extremist groups, including the Canadians who came here last year, to peddle their propaganda about race and faith.

It is important to provide reassurance and support to Muslim or other groups who feel they are targeted by racist individuals or groups. The outpouring of support and sympathy by New Zealanders so far has shown that overwhelmingly we are decent people committed to treating everyone fairly.

Name suppression a must

Other changes will be needed and I fully endorse proposals to ban military style Semi-Automatics which allowed the Christchurch killer to take as many lives as he did.

Social media will have to take steps to avoid individuals misusing online platforms to promote hate and violence. Wouldn’t it be good also if people like this killer could have permanent name suppression and anonymity so that when convicted they would spend the rest of their lives in prison unknown and without the fame and celebrity status they craved and which motivated their actions.

In the face of this tragedy, our nation has pulled together and shown love and compassion for the Muslim community.

Most New Zealanders are accepting of all races and faiths. The overwhelming outpouring of sympathy and support demonstrates hope and expectation that we can build a better and stronger nation.

Phil Goff is Mayor of Auckland.

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