An online screed the shooter apparently left behind explained that he was specifically targeting Muslims who invaded “our lands [and] live on our soil” and that it was an “act of revenge against Islam.”
The Trump administration’s condolences have so far failed to use the word “Muslim” or “Islam.” Under Donald Trump, the US government has banned immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, sharply cut the number of Muslim refugees admitted, and used divisive language to criticize the Islamic religions’ nearly two billion followers, in sharp contrast to previous US presidents.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this morning (March 15) offered his “personal condolences to the Nation of New Zealand in the wake of the mosque attacks,” said “the United States condemns this hateful assault,” and pledged the US’s “unwavering solidarity with the government and people of New Zealand,” in a press conference this morning. But he never mentioned the Muslim community.
Before he joined the Trump administration, Pompeo warned a church group of the threat to America from Islam, and this year in Cairo, he delivered a controversial speech in Cairo rebuking Barack Obama’s promise of a “new beginning” with the Muslim world.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, shared her sympathy for the “victims and their families” in the morning.
In the early afternoon, Nielsen put out a longer statement that expressed condolences “for those affected by the attacks,” again without mentioning who they were, but also noted concerns America’s “Muslim-American communities may have.”
“While we are not aware of any current, credible or active threat domestically, nor of any current information regarding obvious ties between the perpetrators in New Zealand and anyone in the US— the Department is cognizant of the potential concerns members of Muslim-American communities may have as they gather at today’s congregational prayers,” she said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also mentioned “victims and their families” but not Muslims in a statement.
Attorney general William P. Barr referred to religion in his statement, but avoided naming which religion had been targeted:
“Violence on the basis of religion is evil. Today’s attack in New Zealand is a sobering reminder that the threat of political and religious violence is real and that we must remain vigilant against it. The Justice Department joins in mourning with the people of New Zealand,” he said.
Even first lady Melania Trump–who is not, of course, an elected official–failed to use the word “Muslims” or “Islam” in her condolence tweet to grieving “families”.
Trump came the closest to offering condolences to the actual targets of the attack, using the word “mosques” in a tweet, but didn’t mention Muslims or Islam.
After a white supremacist shooter attacked a Quebec mosque in 2017, the White House didn’t offer sympathies to Muslims then either.
The messages from Trump and his cabinet stand in stark contrast to those from other world leaders and figureheads, and other US politicians.
British royals William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, said in a statement:
“This senseless attack is an affront to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand, and the broader Muslim community. It is a horrifying assault on a way of life that embodies decency, community, and friendship.”
Former US president Obama send his condolences to the “Muslim community”.
Pope Francis expressed his “heartfelt solidarity” with Muslims, saying he is: “…deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life cause by the senseless acts of violence at two mosques in Christchurch, and he assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks”.
German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “horror” at the attack on Muslim citizens: “The attack on Muslim citizens is also an attack on New Zealand’s democracy and its open and tolerant society. We share these values and thus also the horror of the New Zealanders.”
Several US Democratic presidential candidates used the word “Muslim” in their comments on the attack; Beto O’Rourke, the Texas candidate, mentioned “Islamophobia.”