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Christchurch shooting: Australia's moment of hate speech reckoning

March 21, 2019 5:09 am

When it emerged that the suspect behind the Christchurch mosque shootings was an Australian, it set the stage for some agonised soul-searching in his homeland.

The prime suspect for the attack, in which 50 people died, is a self-described white supremacist.

Australia’s government immediately joined the unequivocal condemnation of the attack, but the conversation at home was already turning to whether racism and hate speech had become normalised.

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Within hours of the mass shootings, while the rest of the world was still grieving, the debate took an unsavoury turn in Australia when a far-right senator issued a statement in which he blamed the attack on Muslim migration.

On Friday he put out this statement: “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program that allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place”.

The comments sparked immediate fury and condemnation from other lawmakers, who have vowed to formally censure him.

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