New Zealand's Ardern vows justice for victims of mosque attacks

Saul Bowman
March 21, 2019

"You will never hear me mention his name", Jacinda Ardern told Parliament in her first address there since the mass shootings on Friday, the deadliest in the country's modern history.

On Friday, 50 people including 9 Pakistanis were martyred due to the Christchurch shooting incidents.

Jacinda Ardern says her focus is on the communities she serves, such as Cashmere High School students who lost two of their friends. "It is horrendous and while they've given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them".

Sheik Taj El-Din Hilaly, of Sydney, travelled to Christchurch to attend or lead some of the funerals.

The Mustafas arrived in New Zealand past year after living in Jordan as refugees.

"What New Zealand experienced here was violence brought against us by someone who grew up and learned their ideology somewhere else".

She added, "But it wasn't".

Ardern announced plans for a two-minute silence on Friday to mark the one-week anniversary of the attacks, as well as a broadcast of the call to prayer on both RNZ and TVNZ.

"Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh" she said -'May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you too'.

Families of those killed had been anxiously awaiting word on when they could bury their loved ones.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush has said authorities had to prove the cause of death to establish for the courts to treat it as murder. Crisis magazine, tweeted. Ardern's critics have nearly completely quietened, and Muslim communities in New Zealand have said that they feel supported in their home all due to Ardern's strength as a leader. He said the gunman aimed to keep Turks out of Europe.

"He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name", she added.

That does not mean pretending to achieve perfection, as Ardern noted when asked whether New Zealand could serve as a "blueprint" for other nations when it came to gun law reforms. "That's something we can all do".

If found guilty, he faces up to 14 years in jail.

As of Tuesday evening, 30 people were still being treated at the hospital, nine of them in critical condition, medical officials said. A nationwide lockdown on mosques was imposed until Monday, which Hilaly said had upset Muslims whom he had visited in Auckland.

"There are people who have been online making statements who have been interviewed by the police; that will continue".

Equally concerning has beenthe co-opting of the Christchurch attack as a campaigning toolby Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has shown an edited version of the video recorded by the attacker during political rallies.

He appeared in court last Saturday and entered no plea. He remained expressionless during the hearing, his hands clasped behind his back. "That's something that we can absolutely deny him".

A police spokesman would not confirm whether the RWR was still operating in Taranaki, how many members the group had or if there were any concerns its members might attempt a copy cat style attack.

Racism is alive and well in all New Zealand communities and provincial towns are not exempt from its grip, a distinguished professor says.

Abizar Valibhai, of Christchurch, said Wednesday's burials marked an important moment. "Some schools have little amusing rivalries, but in times like this we all just come together and that's all forgotten".

She said she did not know the identities of the two bodies to be buried first.

"He may have sought notoriety", Ardern said. "There are a lot of things that will be shattered".

Aya Al-Umari, whose older brother Hussien Al-Umari died at the Al Noor mosque, wept as she talked about a kind man.

She knelt amid the flowers and wept, grabbing at daisies and lilies as though she might find her boy in them.

"I am very sad", Ardern replied.

She renewed her government's commitment to accept refugees, saying: "We are a welcoming country".

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