Christchurch, New Zealand – A nationwide moment of silence was observed in New Zealand on Friday – ushered in by the Muslim call to prayer – a week after 50 people were killed and scores of others wounded in an attack on two mosques.
The prayer and two-minute reflection were broadcast live on national media outlets and came as an estimated 20,000 people, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, gathered metres from the Al Noor mosque in the city of Christchurch for Muslim Friday prayers.
Al Noor was one of the two places of worship targeted in the city during the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history, allegedly carried out by Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, along with the Linwood mosque.
Imam Gamal Fouda, prayer leader at the Al Noor mosque who was present during last week’s attack, told mourners in Christchurch he “saw hatred and rage in the eyes of the terrorist”.
“Today, from the same place, I look out and I see the love of and compassion in the eyes of thousands of fellow New Zealanders and human beings from across the globe,” Fouda said.
“We have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable, and the world can see in us an example of love and unity. We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken.”
Fouda called on New Zealand and governments “around the world” to “bring an end” to hate speech saying the attack on Friday was the result of “anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim rhetoric by some political leaders, some media agencies, and others”.
Tarrant appeared to publish an overtly white-supremacist online manifesto, which called for “violence” against immigrants, minutes before Friday’s attack
“Last week’s event is proof and evidence to the entire world that terrorism has no colour, has no race, and has no religion,” Fouda said.
“The rise of white supremacy and right-wing extremism is a great global threat to mankind and this must end now.”
‘A special day’
Prior to Fouda’s speech and the Friday prayers, Ardern quoted the Prophet Muhammad during a brief address to the crowd.
“When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain,” said Ardern, wearing a black headscarf. “New Zealand mourns with you, we are one.”
Many of those who arrived to pray in Christchurch had travelled from all over New Zealand, home to about five million people, and elsewhere across the world.
Their shoes, lined up along low makeshift barriers in the open-air prayer areas, were too many to count.
According to local council estimates, as many as 5,000 Muslims attended the prayers, nearly a tenth of the country’s total Muslim population.
Participant Imran Khan, who arrived from Auckland on Friday morning with four friends, said it was important to be present as a “show of support” for his friend Ashraf Azad’s family. Azad was one of the 50 shot dead last week.