Christchurch shootings: World leaders condemn attack; some blame rising Islamophobia

VIDEO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • Leaders around the world expressed disgust and sorrow at the killing of at least 49 people in New Zealand mosques yesterday, and some also expressed anger at what they described as the demonisation that fuelled such attacks, Reuters reported.

Western leaders from United States President Donald Trump to German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed solidarity with the people of New Zealand and deplored what the White House called an "act of hate". The response from some Muslim countries went further, blaming politicians and the media for stoking that hatred.

"I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 (where) 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror," Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on social media.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the attack was a result of Muslims being demonised. "Not only the perpetrators, but also politicians and media that fuel the already escalated Islamophobia and hate in the West are equally responsible for this heinous attack," he tweeted.

Hundreds of angry protesters in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, chanted "Allahu akbar!" (God is greatest) after Friday prayers. "We will not let the blood of Muslims go in vain," said one protester.

Members of the Bangladesh national cricket team, in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand, had arrived at a mosque for Friday prayers as the shooting started but were not hurt.

New Zealand police said 49 people were killed. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said some of the victims may have been new immigrants or refugees, saying the perpetrators "have no place in New Zealand".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said an Australian national arrested after the attack was an "extremist, right-wing violent terrorist".

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who is New Zealand's head of state, said she was "deeply saddened by the appalling events".

US President Trump described the attack as a "horrible massacre".

 
 
 
 
 

In Europe, German Chancellor Merkel mourned "with the New Zealanders for their fellow citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred while peacefully praying in their mosques".

Mr Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, said Londoners stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch.

He also pointed his finger at those who promote religious hatred: "When the flames of hatred are fanned, when people are demonised because of their faith, when people's fears are played on rather than addressed, the consequences are deadly, as we have seen so sadly today."

In Britain, France and New York, security was stepped up around mosques and religious sites.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the attack brought back memories of 2011, when anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik killed 77 people, including 69 at a youth gathering on a Norwegian island: "It shows that extremism is nurtured and that it lives in many places."

The European Commission said the "senseless act of brutality on innocent people in their place of worship could not be more opposite to the values and the culture of peace and unity that the European Union shares with New Zealand".

The Palestinian chief peace negotiator, Mr Saeb Erekat, called the attack a "consequence of racist ideologies that continue trying to promote religious wars".

He compared it to a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people last October, deadly attacks on churches in Egypt by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and an attack by a far-right Israeli gunman on a West Bank mosque in 1994 that killed 29 people.

Al-Azhar University, Egypt's 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, called the attack "a dangerous indicator of the dire consequences of escalating hate speech, xenophobia and the spread of Islamophobia".

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline 'World leaders condemn attack; some blame rising Islamophobia'. Print Edition | Subscribe