New Zealand Shooting Aftermath

  • Posted on: 21 March 2019

Increased Security Measures

Security and safety concerns are on the rise as people around the world mourn the loss of 50 Muslim worshippers in attacks on two New Zealand mosques in Christchurch this past Friday on March 15th. Following the massacre, New Zealand’s national security threat level has risen to a high as senior government officials meet with beehive’s high security bunker for a national security crisis meeting. With that said, more than 250 police detectives as well as specialist staff are being deployed to work on the investigation with the assistance of Australian detectives and the FBI. In the meantime, support has been pouring into New Zealand by the community including The Mongrel Mob, along with various other biker gangs and organizations across the region after the attack.

In the West, American Muslims are already accustomed to police patrols, active shooter drills and private security officers guarding mosques during Friday prayers. However, security measures have increased as a result of the mass shootings, specifically in mosques in Chicago, New York City and across the Tri-State Area. This comes after CAIR (The Council on American-Islamic Relations) urged worshippers from all religions and all over the world to take “stepped-up security precautions.” CAIR, also known as the largest Muslim advocacy group in the United States, is currently promoting a booklet on security strategies for mosques.

In response to the attack, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to provide extra security for Muslim community centers and mosques. Ultimately, he wants to let Muslims know that New Yorkers “truly embrace” them and “have their backs.” With that said, the NYPD is committing to the safety of all houses of worship to facilitate freedom of religion “without any fear.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated that state police have increased their patrols statewide; officers are positioned outside of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York on the Upper East Side. In addition, extra NYPD officers have been deployed to guard the city’s mosques during early morning (Fajr) prayers. As part of its global counterterrorism program, the NYPD stationed an officer in Australia and is in close coordination with law enforcement in New Zealand. However, a trustee of the mosque by the name of Syad Hydarali mentioned that Islamic community members are fearful even of police protection, given the city’s troubled history of surveilling Muslims.

The Elgin police also stepped up their surveillance in the Chicago area. The Elgin Police department are placing extra patrols and setting up active shooter drill for the students at the Institute for Islamic Education. Two Muslim organizations in the Chicago area said they were also increasing patrols and other security measures Friday. An Illinois Northwest Side mosque as well as schools in Morton Grove and Skokie operated by The Muslim Community Center plan to hire extra security patrols.

However, with increased security comes a challenge and need for balance. Saif Rahman, a leader at Falls Church’s large Dar al-Hijra Islamic Center, stated that a mosque “is a place of worship, and people need to feel they’re coming to a sanctuary and can come and approach God.” He went on further to say that “security guys wanted to check cars, and I said absolutely not. We want to keep this idea that the mosque is an open place, where people can feel at peace. We don’t want them to feel under siege.”

Americans aren’t the only ones responding to the latest mass shootings. The UK is also increasing security measures, with the London Muslim mosque requesting police presence at the mosque, Medway Arena and the YMCA during Friday prayers. Senior counter-terrorism experts and members of the security services are educating mosques in the UK on the best protection measures. 

The British national policing lead for counter-terrorism, Neil Basu, does not think there is intelligence linking the mass shootings in Christchurch to the UK.” However, Basu said that there would be more reassurance patrols near worship institutions with special attention being given to mosques. Likewise, police in Scotland and the Greater Manchester area are increasing patrols around mosques despite the lack of intelligence suggesting a specific threat. With that said, Met Chief Superintendent Nick Aldworth ensures that polices are assessing the effect that the mass shootings could potentially have on Britain.

Unlike Basu, Security Minister Ben Wallace hints at growing concerns of the government regarding the rising number of people driven by far right. Wallace believes a far-right mass shooting like the one that occurred in New Zealand can very much happen in the UK. The Muslim Council of Britain asked the government for more security resources in the wake of the recent massacre. Currently, the public money for security is adjusted according to risk. As the threat changes, funding will change with it. As such, due to the increased threat, Wallace stated the government will increase the funding around security of mosques in the region.

Threats of Retaliation

The Muslim community has feared for its reputation in America since the 9/11 attacks, especially with the increase in hate crimes over the last couple of years. Consequently, Friday’s attacks have caused increased anxiety levels for them.The FBI reported 273 anti-Muslim crimes in 2017 alone, 307 in 2016 and 257 in 2015 when Trump’s presidential campaign started. In contrast, the decade before Trump’s campaign (2005 to 2014), there were far less hate crimes, with a total of 160 anti-Muslim crimes reported. 

This white supremacist violence poses the risk of echoing other forms of terrorism. ISIS has called for retaliation after the mass shooting with a high-ranking member by the moniker of Abu Hassan Al Muhajir issuing an appeal in a 44-minute audio recording after being silent for 6 months.

He stated that "the scenes of the massacres in the two mosques should wake up those who were fooled, and should incite the supporters of the caliphate to avenge their religion." Experts had warned that the Christchurch massacre would facilitate “reciprocal radicalization.” Echoing similar thoughts, security services fear a “domino effect” after such an atrocity and are preparing for any potential threat from ISIS’s latest message.

In addition, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened New Zealand and Australia and called on the country to restore the death penalty for the terrorist who killed 50 people at the two Christchurch mosques. He warned that if New Zealand failed to make the attacker pay for his crimes, he would take matters into his own hands.

The Turkish president goes on to make a historical reference to its victory over Australian and New Zealand troops that attempted to seize the Gallipoli peninsula during World War I and even criticized the countries for having been anti-Islam-oriented. He threatened that anyone who came to Turkey with anti-Muslim views would be sent back in coffins.

In response to these threats, New Zealand’s security agency said it is working constantly 24 hours a day to prevent revenge copycat attacks, and mitigate risks in the region. Security Intelligence Service (SIS) Rebecca Kitteridge and Andrew Hampton attended an Intelligence and Security meeting in Wellington, where they shared their concerns about the effects of these threats.