The Christchurch Terrorist’s Attack on Western Civilization
Last week’s slaughter of innocents at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand was so devastating and so hateful … It reminded me of my visits to the Middle East and Africa, and of the unspeakable crimes ISIS committed against Muslim, Yezidi, and Christians in Iraq and Syria.
During one trip to Iraqi-Kurdistan I joined a former Iraqi official. He oversaw military technologies under Saddam Hussein. He’s a Muslim: Sunni on one side of his family and Shia on the other. He grew up in Kurdistan. He jokes that he’s a “Sushi” Muslim. A dignified and magnanimous man, he has friends of all religions and ethnicities.
While we were driving toward Mosul, we passed by village after village that had been leveled by ISIS and U.S. bombs. We stopped at one decimated Yezidi town that was only beginning to recover in the wake of ISIS occupation. There, we met a man who introduced us to his young daughter. She had just been
recovered from captivity, the Yezidi father told us.
“Allahu akbar,” my friend softly exclaimed, out of force of habit. The girl recoiled, and her father asked him not to say those words in her presence.
Realizing that the girl’s abusers had made the phrase hateful to her, my friend excused himself and walked just out of sight. Following behind, I found him fallen to his knees, weeping.
“Jason, you have no idea how painful it is that my prayer would frighten a little girl!” he said.
By the grace of God, he was right. I had no idea.
And by the grace of God, the monster who attacked the mosque in Christchurch did not try to use our Christian faith to justify his crimes. But he did try to use something else dear to us. And he threatens to make it hateful in the ears of victims: Our Anglo-American political tradition.
Western Political Philosophy Is a Proven Cure for Hate
It’s only by twisting Western political philosophy that anyone can make it illiberal or hateful. It’s the system of ideas that gave us the Magna Carta, the United States Constitution, and later the abolition of slavery in both Britain and the U.S.
This same tradition of thought gave us the U.N. Charter of Human Rights, and the assertions of human dignity against the illiberal and exclusionary hate of the Nazi regime at Nuremberg.
All of these documents stem from the same liberating and humane political philosophy that has always stood against any faction that threatened to pit man against man.
And in that political philosophy we also hear echoes of the blessings of true and tolerant religion. As Thomas Jefferson famously put it, “all men are created equal,” and “they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights. …”
The Terrorist Attacked the West
The so-called “manifesto” of the Christchurch terrorist is riddled with self-aggrandizing claims about defending the “West” and “our culture” against “invaders.” He even claimed to take “revenge” for historical attacks on the “European people.”
But for all his claims of defending the West, he is the true invader.
His ideas, as much as his actions, are illiberal, and run directly counter to the benevolent type of “liberalism” that makes the West worth fighting for.
The illiberalism of the Christchurch terrorist is precisely what must be fought in any defense of the liberal West. It’s no better than the supremacist and hateful pseudo-religion of the ISIS terrorists who sought to tear apart the people of Iraq and Syria.
But illiberalism threatens to overtake and rule both sides of the political spectrum in the West, dividing us along lines of class and color, seeking always to destroy the human dignity of the Other.
My Non-Western Friends Convince Me the West is Worth Fighting For
Some time after my trip to Iraqi Kurdistan, my friend visited America to attend a mutual friend’s funeral. At first, he was nervous, especially when passing through security. How would Americans treat him? Would he be met with suspicion? Scorn?
But after a brief stay, he told me how much he felt at home in America. He knew he would never become an American citizen. But he told me “after just a few weeks here, I know what it is to be an American. And now, I will be an American in my heart everywhere I go.”
In less than a month, he had discovered what is precious in our Western way of life. He had discovered the Anglo-American political tradition. That golden thread that links us to our liberty-loving forefathers.
For the sake of all, we must cherish it.