By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
The way in which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern dealt with the terrorist attack in which Muslims were killed by a racist Australian national demonstrated an admirable sense of responsibility by a world leader. The mosque shootings killed 50 people and injured a similar number of worshippers, some of them in critical condition, while they were praying in two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand.
After the cowardly terrorist attack, Ardern appeared on television and addressed the New Zealand people, saying that a terrorist act had been perpetrated in their country, which had not been used to such acts. While condemning this terrorist act, her government pledged to protect mosques and change the laws that allowed anyone to carry arms, as a precautionary measure to prevent any similar incident in future.
She promptly labeled the worst peacetime mass killing in New Zealand as terrorism, and set about reassuring a nation that had been largely unscathed by violence and fear. Ardern said the terrorist streamed a live video of the massacre and released a statement before posting it. “He sought many things from his act of terror but one was notoriety, that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” she said of the gunman. “He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she said while urging everyone else to follow suit.
The prime minister not only condemned the horrific attack, but also visited the families of the victims in their homes to offer them condolences and share with them the grief of all New Zealanders. During these visits she appeared to be most affected by the horrific act, embraced the bereaved family members of the victims and reassured them that the tragedy was not theirs only but also that of her and the entire people of New Zealand. Ardern cited the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying that “the believers, in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy, are just like one body.” “When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain,” she said quoting the Saying of the Prophet (pbuh). Similarly, she emphasized that “New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”
In a sign of tolerance, she had Parliament begin its session, after the massacre, with the recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an. This signified a mark of sympathy and solidarity with Muslims in general and the families of the victims in particular. In an explicit manifestation of sympathy and compassion, the Muslim population of Christchurch was joined, in their Friday prayers in the next week succeeding the attack, by thousands of other New Zealanders, including men and women, who stood behind the rows of worshipers. They listened as the call to prayer rang out across Hagley Park, opposite Al Noor Mosque, which was one of the worst scenes of the attack, and across the country on national television and radio broadcasts. Many women, including Prime Minister Ardern donned headscarves in solidarity with the Muslim community.
The imam at the Al Noor Mosque delivered an important speech in which he praised the position of the government and the people of New Zealand with regard to the painful incident and asserted that the terrorist, who was driven by racism and hatred that inhabited his sick mind, came from Australia to perpetrate his crime in this peaceful country that had not known such crimes.
The prime minister, in her solidarity with the Muslim community gave assurances and promised to take all necessary measures to ensure a safe environment for Muslims to carry out their religious duties and promised to reform gun laws to make access to dangerous weapons difficult. The world recognized her lofty position and tolerant and sympathetic approach toward the Muslim community in New Zealand, something that has not happened anywhere else in the world.
Some people on social media praised the actions of this leader and the solidarity of her people with the victims. All of this had an electrifying impact in mitigating the gravity of the vicious crime. There have also been demands from some corners for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to honour the New Zealand prime minister, while some others have called for her to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
An incident occurred in Australia after the Christchurch terror attack. After blaming Muslim immigrants for the deadly shooting by a white supremacist at the two New Zealand mosques, an Australian senator had an egg cracked over his head by a teenager. Fraser Anning, an independent lawmaker, said that the real cause of the bloodshed in New Zealand mosques was the immigration program, which allowed Muslims to migrate to New Zealand in the first place. He was speaking to reporters in Melbourne when the camera caught a teenager standing behind him and cracking a raw egg on his head. The lawmaker punched the teenager and a scuffle broke out and Anning’s security guards caught the boy in a chokehold while calling for the police. This teenager may face trial in court for his reaction to the racist comments of the lawmaker.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org