CHRISTCHURCH,. The Muslim call to prayer will be broadcast across New Zealand today as the nation pauses to mark a week since a heavily armed white supremacist stormed two mosques in a murder spree streamed online.
Thousands of people are expected to gather in a park opposite the Christchurch mosque where the killing spree began, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The sombre gathering comes a day after the country imposed a ban on assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics, making good on a pledge to rid the country of the kind of weapons used in last week’s slaughter of 50 people.
The move triggered renewed calls from leading American politicians for a similar response in the United States which has suffered a stream of firearm massacres but left gun reform untouched.
The centre of focus today will be Hagley Park, which sits opposite Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque, the first of two houses of worship attacked in a live broadcast assault that sparked global revulsion.
Police and tradesmen had been working intensively in the hope of repairing the mosque’s bullet-scarred and blood-spattered interior ahead of afternoon prayers.
But authorities late yesterday announced prayers would be held in the park, where thousands of people from across New Zealand are expected to turn out.
Ardern will join survivors, victims’ families, locals and volunteers who have flocked to the devastated southern city for Zuhr — the early afternoon prayer session that the gunman chose to attack a week ago.
Prayers and pause
The national mourning will commence at 1.30pm (8.30am Malaysian time) with a call to prayer broadcast on television networks, radio and across multiple local media websites.
The nation will then pause for a two-minute silence at 1.32pm and then prayers will commence.
“We are so happy that this prayer will be broadcast to the entire world so that everyone can be part of it,” Mustafa Farouk, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), said in a statement announcing the prayer session.
The burials of the victims began again today morning, with a hearse pulling in to the crematory on the eastern edge of Christchurch where many have already been buried.
The alleged attacker, 28-year-old Australian national Brenton Tarrant, posted a rambling “manifesto” saying he was motivated partly by a desire to stoke religious conflict between Islam and the West.
But in the week since the attacks, horrified Kiwis have displayed outpourings of support, gathering in large vigils, performing traditional haka dances of solidarity and standing in lines behind local Muslims to protect them while they pray.
One social media campaign has encouraged non-Muslim women to wear headscarves for a day under the hashtag #headscarfforharmony.
Kate Mills Workman, a 19-year-old student from Wellington, posted a selfie on Twitter wearing a green headscarf.
“If I could I would be attending the mosque and standing outside to show my support for my Muslim whanau but I’ve got lectures and I can’t really skip them,” she told AFP, using a Maori term for an extended family.
“Obviously this is all spurred on by the terrible tragedy in Christchurch but it’s also a way of showing that any form of harassment or bigotry based on a symbol of religion is never okay,” she added.
“As New Zealanders, we have to make a really strong stand.” — AFP