The horrific attack on two mosques in New Zealand was a dreadful reminder of the lingering evil of fascism. The killer’s manifesto was rooted in the grotesque Islamophobia of the contemporary far-Right, but it also reached back decades, to some of humanity’s darkest hours.
It cited Oswald Mosley and was peppered with biological racism. It portrayed a mythical West that was once home to a pure white race, “invaded” by outsiders be they “Roma, African, Indian, Turkish, Semitic or other”.
Fascism, the faith of the inadequate, rejects what is in fact best about the West – compassion, tolerance, open-mindedness – in favour of totalitarianism, trying to compel everyone to inhabit its grim fantasy of the survival of the fittest. Fascism puts itself in opposition to the essentials of good religion, too, namely love and peace.
Two places of genuine civilisation that day in Christchurch were the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, where Muslims went with their families to pray.
The killer was greeted at the door of the Al Noor mosque by Daoud Nabi, an unsuspecting 71-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, who said: “Hello brother.”
There are reports that when the shooting started, Mr Nabi stood in front of the attacker, taking bullets for himself. This is the Islam that perhaps too rarely gets reflected in popular culture, an Islam of hospitality, kindness, solidarity and grace.
Fascism must be confronted with tough-minded security and police work, but also intellectually through rigorous debate. Like all lies, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The world has beaten it before, and shall do so again.