It was the most testing moment a Kiwi leader ever faced, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could not have handled it with greater nobility, humanity, and care.
With her nation shocked after a terrorist massacred 50 Muslim worshipers in two Christchurch mosques, the 38-year-old Mormon-turned-agnostic donned a Muslim head scarf and arrived at the scene of the crime where she hugged, consoled, and pressed cheeks with the victims’ relatives and friends.
Equally emphatically, in a poised TV address, Ardern said of the victims that, despite being immigrants, “they are us” and, despite being recent arrivals, “New Zealand is their home.”
Clearly, as World War III’s plot thickens while its fronts multiply and its fire spreads, such magnanimity is an inspiration, if not as a changer of reality then as a reply to its wrath.
But reality, alas, came knocking with typical cynicism and speed, when Turkish President Recep Erdogan, in an appalling inversion of Ardern’s conciliation, rubbed salt into her country’s fresh wounds, unwittingly displaying World War III’s tools, fuel, and aims.
IGNORING WELLINGTON’S express demand that the terrorist’s video of his massacre not be aired, Erdogan played the footage in seven different election rallies within four days. In doing that, the world’s strongest Islamic leader deployed the current war’s supreme tool – the Internet.
Then, as if that horror show was not inflammatory enough, Erdogan commanded New Zealand to reinstate the death penalty, warned its leaders that if they don’t carry out his verdict then “we will,” and charged that the terrorist’s manifesto was “handed” to him by “the West.”
Finally, Erdogan flashbacked to World War I and, recalling the Aussies and Kiwis who died in the Gallipoli Campaign, hollered that “those coming to Turkey with anti-Islamic feelings” should return where they came from in coffins, “like their grandfathers.”
Erdogan’s barbaric incitement is significant not only because of its contrast with Ardern’s compassion, but because of the resemblance between his and the Australian terrorist’s distortions of history.
Brenton Tarrant reportedly wrote that he came to kill New Zealand’s Muslim “invaders,” an invasion that is as far-fetched as Erdogan’s reading this week of World War I.
“What business did you have here?” Erdogan asked about World War I, referring to Australia and New Zealand. “Why did you come all the way over here?” he wondered, before answering: “The only reason – we are Muslim, and they are Christian.”
Set aside Erdogan’s myopia – Britain’s war was not with Islam, but with Germany; Turkey was attacked not because of its religion, but because it was Germany’s ally; and the canting “Why did you come all the way over here?” can be asked just as well about the Ottoman invasions of foreign lands from Hungary to Egypt, and indeed about Erdogan’s own military presence in Cyprus, Syria, and Iraq.
The thing about Erdogan’s reading of history is that he, just like the rising “white terror,” is defining World War III as a clash between Christianity and Islam, and an Armageddon between East and West.
That’s not what it is.
THE WAR we face pits neither East against West nor Christianity against Islam, but fundamentalism – that is, the quest to restore a glorious past – against the rest of civilization.
Such is the 40-year-old war that began with Islamism’s conquest of Iran, the year before New Zealand’s prime minister was born.
The war that began in 1979 spread from the Shi’ite world to the Sunni sphere and has targeted practically the entire world, waging deadly blows from Buenos Aires, Ottawa, and New York through London, Paris, and Madrid to Volgograd, Nairobi, and Mumbai.
The Islamist assault’s global thought and reach demanded a global reply, meaning international cooperation, initiative and bellicosity, some of which existed in some governments to some degree, in others to lesser degrees, and in some not at all.
While governments procrastinated in fighting Islamism, “white terror” brewed and this decade began spilling over.
That was the backdrop to Anders Breivik’s massacre of 77 Norwegians in 2011; to subsequent arson, shooting, and stabbing attacks in Sweden; to the arrest last year in France of a terrorist-cell that planned to kill Muslims; and to 950 attacks in 2017 alone on Muslims in Germany, in which 60 mosques were vandalized and 33 people were injured, according to the Interior Ministry in Berlin.
This gathering counterattack in some ways inverts, but in more ways resembles the Islamist assault on civilization.
On the one hand, Islamism is out to conquer the entire world, whereas “white terror” wants only to preserve Christendom’s existing realms. On the other hand, both scourges abhor diversity, resent the present, crave an imaginary past, recruit the ignorant, incite the impressionable, abuse the Internet, and murder the innocent at will.
In this regard, World War III’s Muslim fanatics, Christian fundamentalists and white supremacists are actually all on its one side, ridiculing and targeting the rest of us, the believers in international harmony, interracial equality, and interreligious respect.
Fortunately for Islamist triumphalism, its effort has not only a steady supply of mass murderers of the sort its Christian inversion just sent to New Zealand, but also sympathetic governments: Shi’ite Iran’s, for the past 40 years, and now also Sunni Turkey’s, as its leader has just made plain.
There once was another Turkey; the Turkey whose founder, Ataturk, said what is still etched in a monument at Gallipoli; that the Anzacs buried there are “lying in the soil of a friendly country” and “after having lost their lives on this land have become our sons as well.”
A day will come when World War III will end. I don’t know when it will come, but I do know that when it does, the world will be governed by the sanity of Kemal Ataturk and Jacinda Ardern.Amotz Asa-El’s new book, Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), is an interpretation of the Jewish people’s political history.
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