U.S. Muslim group urges Trump to condemn New Zealand mosque shootings as ‘white supremacist terrorist attacks’
“You should condemn this, not only as a hate crime but as a white supremacist terrorist attack,” Nihad Award, executive director of CAIR, told reporters in Washington, D.C. “During your presidency and during your election campaign, Islamaphobia took a sharp rise, and attacks on innocent Muslims, innocent immigrants and mosques have skyrocketed.”
At least 49 people were killed and another 48 injured in mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, N.Z., as worshippers attended Friday prayers. Part of the horrifying attack was broadcast live on social media by a self-proclaimed white nationalist wielding at least two rifles and a shotgun.
The alleged gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white supremacist who was out to target Muslims.
The alleged gunman’s manifesto praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
“Your policies matter. They impact the lives of innocent people at home and globally,” Award said, speaking to Trump. “We hold you responsible for this growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country and in Europe.”
Trump condemned the “horrible massacre” at the mosques, which the White House called a “vicious act of hate” in a tweet.
“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” Trump tweeted.
Trump was asked again about the attacks after vetoing a congressional resolution that rescinded his national emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border. He said that he does not see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world.
“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” Trump said, calling the attacks “horrible” and “disgraceful.”
WATCH: Trump says he doesn’t see white nationalism as a growing threat
In a separate statement, the White House also condemned the shootings but did not mention specifically that it was at a mosque or that Muslims were killed.
“The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Friday morning. “We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”
In Canada, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was also criticized for failing to mention that Muslims were the victims of a terrorist attack in a statement he posted to social media late Thursday.
By mid-afternoon Friday, Scheer’s new statement issued by email and posted to Facebook added mention of the fact two mosques were the targets and condemned a “cowardly and hateful attack on the Muslim community.”
Abbas Barzegar, CAIR research director, said that anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians like Trump can fuel fascist ideology and lead to violence.
“When you hear the words ‘invading immigrants,’ which we’ve heard in this administration, and we’ve seen people send stunt shows and circus shows of sending the military down to the border to do what? Nothing, except send the message that immigrants are the enemy,” he said. “This is about an ideology that we should all recognize by now… These are fascists and we have to recognize it.”
WATCH: CAIR says data shows increased rate of attacks on Muslims
As vigils are held around the world in support of Christchurch victims, Muslim communities expressed sorrow and grief in the wake of the vicious terror attack.
“It’s just terrifying and so utterly horrifying that this could happen in a place of worship,” Haroon Khan with Vancouver’s oldest mosque, Al Masjid Al Jamia, told Global News. “We experienced this in the Quebec shooting where six people passed.”
In both Canada and the U.S., statistics show that police reported hate crimes targeting Muslims have increased dramatically in recent years.
Trump, who campaigned on a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., has drawn criticism for failing to condemn white supremacy and related violence. In the days following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters and said “both sides” were to blame.
He later said on the anniversary of the rally in August that he condemns “all types of racism and acts of violence.”
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.