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Weekend Read: A horrifying pattern of white supremacist attacks

He approached the mosque on foot, his weapon visible in a country where guns are rare. 

“There wasn’t even time to aim, there was so many targets,” he said in the 17-minute video of the attack he posted to Facebook.

Those “targets” were Muslim worshippers.

A man in his late 20s has been charged with murder after at least 49 Muslims were killed in shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand. Two other men and a woman have also been taken into custody.

Almost immediately, evidence emerged of the alleged killer’s immersion in white supremacist ideology. He engraved the “14 words” — a white supremacist slogan — on his rifle. On other weapons, he wrote the names of military leaders who led battles against nonwhite forces and men who recently carried out mass shootings of Jews and Muslims.

In fact, the alleged killer praised Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik and Charleston shooter Dylann Roof in a manifesto posted to social media before the attack. And in an earlier post to the same far-right website where the video of the mosque shooting was posted, he uploaded a meme with a quote said to have been uttered by Robert Bowers, the man accused of killing 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October.

The Christchurch massacre is part of a horrifying pattern of white supremacist attacks on houses of worship. Before Charleston and Pittsburgh, there was the 2012 murder of six Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. They were targeted, most likely, because the neo-Nazi shooter confused them with Muslims.

But the terrorism in Christchurch is also part of a pattern of anti-Muslim sentiment fueled by white supremacist anxiety about people of color.

The alleged killer’s manifesto refers to nonwhites as “invaders” who threaten to “replace” white people — the same kind of language we heard from three militia members who plotted to bomb a Kansas mosque and apartment complex housing Somali immigrants the day after the 2016 election.

Those would-be attackers were stopped, but the Muslim community in Christchurch wasn’t so lucky.

The atrocity in New Zealand shows, once again, that we’re dealing with a global terrorist movement linked by the same virulent form of white supremacist ideology shared by the likes of Breivik, Roof and the so-called alt-right in America. 

Our government – particularly policymakers and law enforcement – must begin to view what we call “domestic terrorism” through a global lens and recognize the growing white supremacist movement for what it is: a clear and present danger around the entire world.

The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week: 

SPLC's Weekend Reads are a weekly summary of the most important reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequity, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive Weekend Reads every Saturday morning.