The cold-blooded massacre of 50 Muslims while engaged in Friday prayers in two Christchurch mosques needs to be condemned but the manner in which the people of New Zealand have responded, must be lauded. About 50,000 Muslims call New Zealand home, a small minority in a population of nearly five million. From India and Indonesia to Pakistan and Palestine, the Pacific Island country’s Muslims come from around the world. Apparently, the Muslims have gelled well in a peace-loving country as it became evident after the catastrophic event. Led by their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has proved herself to be a person of crisis and a live wire in bending backwards to mitigate the aftermath of the horrendous catastrophe, the New Zealanders have won the heads and hearts of every Pakistani, Muslims and humanists the world over.
Jacinda Ardern wasted no time in rising to the occasion. She has vowed to cover the funeral costs, offered financial assistance to grief-stricken families. She has pledged swift action on gun control but also delicately consoled and embraced and mourned in a Muslim-style headscarf, known as a hijab. She condemned the heinous attack by the 28-year-old Australian man in the harshest terms, sparing no resource in apprehending the culprit and bringing him to justice.
Broadcasting the Friday Prayers Azan live and commencing the parliamentary process with recitation from the Holy Quran and her address with the Islamic salutation have gone a long way in alleviating the pain of the relatives and dependents of the victims of the bloodbath.
Taking cue from their considerate and caring leader, average New Zealanders have made efforts to share the pain of their fellow Muslims. Social media is rife with images of non-Muslim New Zealanders standing guard behind Muslims praying in mosques.
The response by Jacinda Ardern to Donald Trump’s offer of solidarity was spontaneous: Express “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.” Ardern has won plaudits at home and abroad for her efforts to honour the dead, comfort the bereaved, unite political opponents and stand up to white extremism.
Ardern has won plaudits at home and abroad for her efforts to honour the dead, comfort the bereaved, unite political opponents and stand up to white extremism
“You may have chosen us,” Ardern said last week, the anger rising in her voice as she condemned the suspect in Friday’s attacks. “But we utterly reject and condemn you.” This week, Ardern went further, telling New Zealand’s parliament that she would deny the man responsible for the nation’s worst terror attack in modern history the one thing he likely craved: “fame.”
“He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist, but he will, when I speak, be nameless, and to others I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing – not even his name.”
When Ardern took office in 2017 as a 37-year-old woman, she was not only the country’s third female prime minister and the world’s youngest world leader, she was also about to give birth. She became just the second woman in history to give birth while an elected head of state (Benazir Bhutto was the first) and the first elected leader ever to take maternity leave.
Ardern made history in 2018 when she brought her 3-month-old daughter to a United Nations General Assembly meeting, the first time it had been done. Ardern appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine in September, and the glossy fashion magazine described her as a “thoroughly modern” feminist hero. When she was named by Time magazine in 2018 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, described Ardern as a “political prodigy” who was “changing the game” for women around the globe. It now appears that she is redefining the meaning of statesmanship and leadership.
In a world driven by Islamophobia, where the peace-loving religion is misrepresented as fomenting hatred, misogynism and violence, the people of New Zealand have lit the torch for the virtues of tolerance and humanity. It is not only Islam that preaches open-mindedness and love for our fellow beings. Here one is reminded of a couplet from the famous poet Hali, whose I name I use: ‘Farishte se behtarhaiinsaanbanna. ..magarismeinlagtihaimehnatzyada.’
Roughly translated it means it is better to be a human being than an angel, but it requires hard work.
In the same vein, the composure and serenity displayed by the widow of Naeem Rashid who sacrificed his life to save fellow Muslims at the Christchurch massacre deserves praise.
Indeed, the Trumps of USA and numerous other world leaders who target Muslims only for their faith need to take a leaf from the book of Jacinda Ardern and her fellow New Zealanders. Senator Fraser Anning, I hope you are listening?