After at least 49 people were killed in a targeted attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, a far-right Australian senator blamed the violent act on Muslim immigration.
Sen. Fraser Anning from Queensland put out a statement ostensibly condemning the attacks — but then seized the opportunity to spew incendiary and Islamophobic remarks that echoed the rhetoric of the suspected gunman’s manifesto.
“I am utterly opposed to any form of violence within our community, and I totally condemn the actions of the gunman,” Anning said. “However, whilst this kind of violent vigilantism can never be justified, what it highlights is the growing fear within our community, both in Australia and New Zealand of the increasing Muslim presence.”
The senator claimed “left-wing politicians and media” would blame gun laws and nationalist views, but “the real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
Just incredible: As 49 Muslim worshippers lay dead in New Zealand, a sitting Australian senator blames “the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand”. pic.twitter.com/13w7aAK8IR— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) March 15, 2019
Anning also posted an equally problematic statement on Twitter in which he tried to draw a link between Muslim immigration and violence.
Anning has a history of making racist statements
The story in New Zealand is still developing, but reports suggest that at least one gunman targeted two mosques during Friday prayers in what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called a “terrorist attack.” Ardern said the shooter embraced extremist views, and a white nationalist manifesto linked to the suspect supports this thesis.
Anning, the Queensland senator, appeared to reiterate his comments, even as more details of the attack emerged:
I wonder if there will be as much outrage from the left wing when the next Muslim terrorist attack occurs?— Senator Fraser Anning (@fraser_anning) March 15, 2019
Most likely silence and talk about “lone wolf attacks, mental illness and no connection to Islam”.
Anning took office in 2017 after the elected candidate was found ineligible, and has a history of making inflammatory and racist comments. He was kicked out of his political party in October 2018 after he made an immigration speech in August questioning Muslim and non-English-speaking immigration, and called for a “final solution” to the problem, an apparent reference to Hitler.
According to the Guardian, the right-wing populist Australian party One Nation condemned Anning’s statements at the time. Anning also defended his attendance at a “fascist” really in Melbourne in 2019.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who himself has faced criticism for his immigration policies, denounced Anning’s remarks and called them “disgusting.”
The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting. Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 15, 2019
Correction: Anning became senator in Queensland after another candidate was found ineligible because of his dual citizenship. This post originally said he was “elected in 2017.” The language has been changed to more accurately reflect how he gained his office.