Monday, 19 August 2019

New Zealand PM calls for global anti-racism fight

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for a global fight to root out racist right-wing ideology following last week’s deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch.

In one of her first interviews since then, she told the BBC that she rejected the idea that a rise in immigration was fuelling racism. Fifty people were killed and dozens more wounded in Friday’s gun attacks. The first funerals, of a father and son from Syria, took place on Wednesday.

Ardern said this coming Friday’s call to prayers for Muslims in New Zealand will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two minute silence on Friday.

Ardern also announced that New Zealand would hold two minutes of silence as a mark of respect for the dead on the day and women in the country were being encouraged to wear headscarves to show their support for the Muslim community.

1st funerals, of a father and son from Syria, took place

Hundreds of mourners gathered at a cemetery near the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, one of two places of worship targeted. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder. Fifty people died in the attack.

Asked about the rise of right-wing nationalism she said: “This was an Australian citizen but that is not to say that we do not have an ideology in New Zealand that would be an affront to the majority of New Zealanders.”

She said there was a responsibility “to weed it out where it exists and make sure that we never create an environment where it can flourish”.

“But I would make that a global call,” she added. “What New Zealand experienced here was violence brought against us by someone who grew up and learned their ideology somewhere else. If we want to make sure globally that we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world we cannot think about this in terms of boundaries.”

She defended New Zealand’s record on accepting refugees, saying: “We are a welcoming country. I utterly reject the idea that in any way in trying to ensure that we have a system that looks after those who choose to call New Zealand home, that we have perpetuated an environment where this kind of ideology can exist.”

Ms Ardern also defended her call not to refer to the suspect by name. “One of his goals… was that he sought notoriety and we will absolutely deny him that,” she said.

No leader can prepare for a moment like this. Carrying a nation through tragedy comes down to instinct and resolve. But Jacinda’s Ardern’s response to the Christchurch attack has been admired perhaps because it has felt honest and sincere.

Compassionate but composed, from the first few hours she sought to place herself on the side of the victims and their families. Wearing a hijab as a sign of respect may seem a simple gesture, but it has resonated with the relatives and friends still lost in grief.

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