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White supremacy is ‘being exported and globalized’: Experts respond to New Zealand mass shootings

Police officers stood outside of the East London Mosque following the deadly terror attacks in New Zealand. Jack Taylor/Getty Images/Getty Images

The mass shootings that killed at least 49 people at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, a rampage attributed to a 28-year-old right-wing extremist, demonstrated that white supremacy is “being exported and globalized,” the head of the national Anti-Defamation League said.

“This attack underscores a trend that ADL has been tracking: that modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s chief executive officer and national director, in a statement.

Greenblatt said the “hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world. Indeed, it appears that this attack was not just focused on New Zealand; it was intended to have a global impact.”


His words were echoed by Robert Trestan, executive director of the ADL’s Boston office.

Trestan said in a telephone interview that the New Zealand shootings are a stark reminder that “everyone is vulnerable.”

“In the same way that there’s a global economy, there’s global trafficking in hate,” Trestan said. “Extremists tend to act out in their own communities. And so we’re on notice that there are extremists in communities across the world who are prepared to kill people.”

Trestan said people of faith the world over must unite against extremist violence.

“If a Muslim mosque, or a Jewish synagogue, or a Sikh gurdwara is under attack, and people are being killed while worshiping, then no one of any faith is safe,” he said.

Trestan continued, “That means we need to be standing side by side, we need to be standing next to one another, because our safety is dependent on the support of those in our community. And that’s a global community.”

Kumi Naidoo, the secretary general of Amnesty International, also drew a connection between the New Zealand killings and a rising global tide of anti-Muslim hatred.


“This is one of the darkest days in New Zealand’s history,” Naidoo said in a statement. “The attackers who unleashed their deadly hatred and racism upon women, men, and children as they took part in Friday prayers has thrown us all into shock and grief.”

Naidoo said the tragedy should serve as a “moment of reckoning for leaders across the world who have encouraged or turned a blind eye to the scourge of Islamophobia. The politics of demonization has today cost 49 people their lives. Reports that the attackers followed a white supremacist manifesto must galvanize world leaders to start standing against this hate-filled ideology.”

A man who claimed responsibility for the New Zealand shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for the attack. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian and a racist.

Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish National Defense College told a Swedish radio program Friday that the New Zealand gunman claims to ‘‘have been in contact” with sympathizers of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist currently imprisoned for killing 77 people in Norway in 2011.

More recently in the United States, hate crimes have been on the rise.

The FBI last year reported that hate crimes spiked 17 percent nationwide in 2017 compared with 2016, increasing for the third straight year across the country. The 7,175 incidents reported nationally in 2017 reflect not only more crimes, but also more law enforcement agencies providing data to the FBI.


In October, an avowed anti-Semite killed 11 people during a mass shooting inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.

And extensive far-right activity was also reported in Europe in 2018, according to the 2018 European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report.

“Five foiled, failed or completed terrorist attacks attributed to rightwing extremists (RWE) were reported for 2017: all of them by the UK,” the report says. “The number of individuals arrested in relation to RWE offences almost doubled in 2017 (11 in 2015; 12 in 2016; 20 in 2017). The vast majority (15) were reported by France. Of the 20 people arrested, 16 were arrested for preparing an attack, 3 for committing an attack and one for inciting and/or praising terrorism.”

The report also links the rise of right-wing extremism on the continent to bigotry against Muslims.

“An important trigger for the current expansion of the RWE scene is the fear of an assumed Islamisation of the Western world,” the report says. “A major and active representative of the RWE scene motivated by fear of Muslim domination and the introduction of Islamic law (shari’a) is the Identitäre Bewegung, which originated in Germany and currently has branches in other EU Member States including Austria (Identitäre Bewegung Österreich, Identitarian Movement Austria) and the Netherlands (Identitair Verzet, Identitarian Resistance).”

On Friday, Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also voiced concern about what he described as a rising tide of hatred.


The Law Center says on its website that there were “at least 13 alt-right related fatal episodes, leaving 43 dead and more than 60 injured” in the US between May 23, 2014 and Jan. 2, 2018.

“The atrocity in New Zealand shows us, once again, that we’re dealing with an international terrorist movement linked by a dangerous white supremacist ideology that’s metastasizing in the echo chambers of internet chat rooms and on social media networks,” Cohen said in a statement.

He said the hatred is “even being amplified by our own president, who speaks of an ‘invasion of our country.’ The killer’s manifesto bears the unmistakable fingerprints of the so-called alt-right, both in tone and reference. It celebrates the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik as well as Charleston terrorist Dylann Roof. It speaks of ‘invaders’ who will ‘replace’ white people. This is the very same kind of language used by Roof and numerous other white supremacists who have committed or attempted acts of terror.”

Cohen called on public officials to push back against far-right hate groups.

“We – and that includes policymakers and the law enforcement community, in particular – must begin to view what we call ‘domestic terrorism’ through a global lens, just as we do the threat of groups like ISIS, because the growing white supremacist movement represents a clear and present threat to democracies across the world,” he said.

President Trump also condemned the New Zealand killings in a Friday morning tweet.


“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques,” Trump tweeted. “49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Globe Jeremy C. Fox contributed. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.