The Guardian view on the Christchurch attacks: extremism’s rising danger | Editorial

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The far right seeks to divide. Responsible politicians ought, especially in times of grief and anger, to bring people together

New Zealand is best known for its breathtaking wilderness, found in distant but secure islands at the edge of the world. On Friday that changed. Forty-nine people were killed in shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch in a terrorist attack during the congregational prayer. The horrific events have left the country in mourning and shock. Muslims make up less than 1% of New Zealand’s population and the faith’s most prominent adherent is a rugby player. This was a stupefying amount of lethal force in a country that saw only 35 homicides in all of 2017. New Zealand as a nation will collectively have to deal with a trauma that no parent, no relative, no friend should ever endure.

At the time of writing, it is unclear whether Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian suspected of both attacks, had accomplices. On a Facebook post last year he had called the people whom he had met while travelling in Pakistan, presumably all Muslim, “the most earnest, kind hearted and hospitable people in the world”. If Tarrant is the same man wearing military fatigues who livestreamed himself shooting dead worshippers in cold blood, then the humanity he had publicly recognised in others had in months been drained and replaced with a thick and murderous hate. A Twitter account with the same name posted links to a manifesto reeking of white supremacist conspiracy theories.

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