New Zealand marked one week since the devastating white supremacist attack that took the lives of 50 people inside and around two Christchurch mosques. But unlike last Friday, when the island nation’s tiny Muslim minority prayed alone, today they were joined at their mosques by thousands, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The Azaan for Friday prayers was heard across New Zealand followed by a two-minute silence nationwide as a show of support for the victims.
Imam Gamal Fouda of the Al Noor Mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were martyred, told the crowd, “The terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology that has torn the world apart. But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable … We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us.”
Prime Minister Ardern, wearing a headscarf like most of the Muslim and non-Muslim women present, also made a short speech in which she quoted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to explain that New Zealand mourns with every victim’s family.
Halfway across the world, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at a meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers in Istanbul suggested a comprehensive global strategy to tackle rising Islamophobia. At the same meeting, New Zealand FM Winston Peters assured that Muslims in his country would feel safe and secure. Qureshi reminded that the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment by populists in the West had led us to this place. “Every bullet fired by the terrorist was an assault on the values of pluralism and diversity that underpin modern multicultural societies,” he added while suggesting a slew of reforms to help curb Islamophobia and fight terrorism based on ideologies such as white supremacy and Hindutva.
But since Qureshi said little to inspire unity, we must return again to Christchurch. In the words of Imam Fouda, “The victims did not die in vain. Their blood has watered the seeds of hope.” That hope is a world where we love — not tolerate, but love — all others, regardless of their gender, colour, caste, or religion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2019.
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