The use of social media as a breeding ground for hate and incitement must be addressed

News Desk

The multireligious Board of Directors of the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) issued the following statement following the shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March 2019. The shooting resulted in 49 casualties, and more than 20 wounded during Friday prayers, making it the country’s worst ever mass shooting, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned as terrorism.

The Board said:

“By attacking during weekly Friday prayers at the mosques, the perpetrators struck at the very heart of this small community in New Zealand, with the clear intention  to cause harm to as many peaceful Muslim worshippers as possible. The fear and terror created by this attack on the members of New Zealand’s Muslim community, which is only 1% of the total population, cannot be overstated. The attack, taken in context of a rising number of attacks against peaceful worshippers around the world, is a clear indication of rising prejudice and violence against minorities around the world. Attacks against peaceful worshippers, irrespective of their faith, is a violation of universal human rights.

The heinous nature of the original attack is only compounded by the use of social media to spread further fear and terror in its wake. The use of social media, and the connection to online hate speech groups, is a clear reminder to us that violent extremists of all stripes are using social media to spread hate speech, and incitement to violence. Young people are especially vulnerable, but no part of society is immune from this disease.

Incitement to violence is a crime, whether it is practiced online or offline, and we call on the religious leaders and communities in New Zealand, and worldwide, to bond together in the face of terror, through practicing interreligious and intercultural dialogue for peaceful coexistence, and bringing their voices and messages of peace online as well as putting them into practice in their daily interactions.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of all the victims, to everyone affected by this attack, to the people of New Zealand as they rebuild their community, and we echo the Prime Minister’s message that ‘Violence has no place in New Zealand’ but we add also, the world.”

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