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Interfaith Dialogue ( 25 March 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Lessons from Christchurch: Do Not Type-Caste Christians As the Quran Does Not Typecast People of the Book

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

25 March 2019

On 15th March Christchurch Mosques witnessed bloodshed by a white supremacist who had earlier travelled to Pakistan and Turkey. He had been radicalized by Islamophobic literature and had hatred for Muslims. But the government of New Zealand demonstrated remarkable sympathy for and solidarity with the victims and for the Muslim community. New Zealand Muslim community consists of immigrant Muslims from India, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji and refugees from war torn Muslim counters apart from converts from New Zealand’s ethnic population.  Presently the population of Muslims there is roughly fifty thousand. With the increase of their population they made their presence felt in social and political arena raising eyebrows in Islamophobic community in Europe and in New Zealand. In 2006, two newspapers published cartoons of the holy prophet but the New Zealand Muslim community, instead of showing violent reactions, protested peacefully and had dialogue with the newspapers’ editorial teams and larger Christian community. As a result, the newspapers though did not apologise but promised that they would refrain from publishing such cartoons again. In response, Muslims appealed to Muslim countries to withdraw boycott of New Zealand’s products.

Muslims in New Zealand are a peace loving community regularly engaging with the Christian community in interfaith dialogue. Muslims in New Zealand have not been typecast as extremists or terrorists because they have assimilated into the New Zealand society along with leading their religious and communal life.  However, there are Muslim religious personalities like Imam Anwar Sahib or Shia religious leader Syed Taghi Derhami who made remarks against Christians and Jews and women drawing controversy and criticism. But the Muslims did not support their statements. On the whole the New Zealand Muslim community has been contributing to the growth of their country and leading a peaceful life. They have made it their homeland.

The incident of 15th March has some lessons for the Muslims of the world. Muslims should not see Christians everywhere as their enemy. All the Christians are not anti-Muslim as all the Muslims do not subscribe to extremist ideology. The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern proved this with her words and actions that she considered Muslims People of the Book and had great respect for Islam and its prophet pbuh. As the leader of a country, she could have taken action against the wrongdoer and given necessary relief to the victims and provided protection to the Muslim community. But what she said and did was beyond formal political and legal procedure. She ordered the commencement of the Parliament session with the recital of the Quran and the broadcast of the Azan on the following Friday on the national media. She stood outside the mosque during the Friday prayers assuring the Muslims of full state protection. Not only that,  she quoted a Hadith in which the holy prophet pbuh  said that the believers in the whole world were like a body; if a part of the body is in pain, the whole body feels the pain.

Her words and actions proved the Quran right once again that many among the People of the Book are on the right path and when the Quran is recited to them, they listen to it with respect and devotion.

Muslim countries and individuals who have rejoiced at the recitation of the Quran in New Zealand’s Parliament should introspect as to what they have done in their own countries to win the faith of the non-Muslims and to express solidarity with non –Muslims and Christian community who have been victims of militancy and terrorism. Have they showed the same degree of brotherly attitude and condemned the terrorists and extremists in the same vein?  Have the Muslim countries provided same kind of relief to the victims and their families for their rehabilitation? I am afraid the answer will be a no.  The Muslims of New Zealand get the credit for presenting the right image of Islam through their constructive approach to religion, to other sect of Muslims and to the People of the Book. All of them live and work peacefully giving other groups and communities the right and liberty to follow and propagate their religion and beliefs. New Zealand model of Muslim society has emerged as an ideal society of Muslims in the modern world.

S. Arshad is a regular columnist for


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