The Prime Minister was right to announce to the world that in New Zealand we are all ‘us,’ but although it made us feel virtuous to agree with her, we know that’s not true.
You could say that, in general, we have tolerated Muslims, but they will tell you about being held in Customs for longer periods than other New Zealanders and that they have a harder time than European immigrants trying to get their parents to visit from places like India and Pakistan. And that feels like discrimination.
Muslim New Zealanders have been seen as ‘other.’ We have found it hard to accept their culture and religion. However, if anything good can be said to come out of the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch it is that maybe now the ‘us’ has a ring of truth to it. And tolerance has taken a giant step towards acceptance.
Sympathetic comments from overseas observers also need to be examined. New Zealand has not lost its peaceful innocence just as Norway didn’t lose its identity when Anders Breivik gunned down 69 young people at a Workers League summer camp there in July 2011. I don’t think we have ever been innocent of the fact that no country is exempt from violent people with a distorted view of the world. We have our share of such people, fortunately most of them are locked-up.
Until they are identified, we cannot prevent them from committing appalling crimes. Terrorists tend to appear out of nowhere. What we can do is ensure the Tarrants and Breivik’s of this world are prevented from killing so many people. We can do that by making it a crime to sell or possess weapons designed for soldiers and terrorists. And buy back all such weapons in private hands.
To get back to the ‘us’ that speaks of the tolerance and acceptance we want and expect in New Zealand, let’s not get carried away by making toleration itself intolerable.
We saw that when Don Brash was refused the right to air his views in a university because of his perceived intolerance of acceptable ideas. A current case in Australia: a young man, 17 year old Will Connolly, assaulted senator Fraser Anning, hitting him in the head with an egg because the Senator has extreme views. The Senator retaliated by punching his assailant, twice. Yet it seems the Australian media is crying out for the politician to be charged with assault while his assailant makes himself out to be a hero.
Balance is hard to achieve. And so is l good leadership during catastrophic times. We have reason to be thankful for the statesmanlike and very reassuring manner in which our prime minister is handling this tragedy.