A right-wing Australian senator on Friday said the “real cause of bloodshed” following a shooting at two mosques that killed 49 people was Muslims.
“I am utterly opposed to any form of violence within our community, and I totally condemn the actions of the gunman,” Queensland Sen. Fraser Anning wrote in a statement.
“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 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.”
Anning, a far-right independent senator from Queensland, said Muslims “may have been the victims today; usually they are the perpetrators.”
“The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith,” Anning wrote. “It is the religious equivalent of fascism. And just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.”
The senator’s remarks come after at least 49 people were killed and more than 40 others seriously injured in New Zealand after at least one gunman opened fire at two mosques in downtown Christchurch.
One person has been charged and four others detained in the attack. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed one of those detained was Australian.
One man who claimed to have perpetrated the attack left an 87-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained his reasoning. Videos and photos on his social media page that appeared to have been taken live during the attack were shared on social media before being taken down, according to CNN.
In the online manifesto, the suspect declared himself to be a 28-year-old Australian radicalized online by right-wing influences amid pages of rhetoric against Muslims and other minorities.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison quickly condemned Anning’s remarks on Twitter.
“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,” Morrison wrote.
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
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Anning is a “disgrace to the Senate, and what is worse, by spreading hatred and turning Australians against each other, he is doing exactly what the terrorists want.”
Fraser Anning’s comments today are contemptible. He is a disgrace to the Senate and what is worse by spreading hatred and turning Australians against each other he is doing exactly what the terrorists want.
– Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) March 15, 2019
Anning has been criticized in the past for controversial comments about immigration.
He was widely condemned last year for calling for the “final solution” to end what he called an immigration problem in his country, invoking an infamous Nazi euphemism for genocide.
Updated at 9:39 a.m.