JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Political and Islamic leaders across Asia expressed their disgust at the deadly shooting at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday (March 15) as some revealed that their citizens had been caught up in the bloodshed.
The timing of the shootings in the city of Christchurch, during Friday prayers, and the posting on social media of what appeared to be live, point-of-view video footage of the assault by a gunman, added to the distress of many.
“Indonesia strongly condemns this shooting act, especially at a place of worship while a Friday prayer was ongoing,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement.
She was earlier cited by media as saying six Indonesians had been inside the mosque when the attack occurred, with three managing to escape and three unaccounted for.
Indonesia’s ambassador to New Zealand, Mr Tantowi Yahya, told Reuters that inquiries were being made as to whether Indonesians were caught up in the attack. There are 331 Indonesians in Christchurch, including 134 students, the foreign ministry said.
In Muslim-majority Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the biggest party in its ruling coalition, said one Malaysian had been wounded in the attack he described as a “black tragedy facing humanity and universal peace”.
“I am deeply saddened by this uncivilised act, which goes against humanistic values and took the lives of civilians,” he said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of New Zealand.”
New Zealand authorities confirmed “multiple” deaths but they did not say how many or identify any victims. New Zealand media reported “dozens” of dead.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman condemned what he called a “racist and fascist” attack.
“This attack shows the point which hostility to Islam and enmity to Muslims has reached,” Mr Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.
“We have seen many times Islamophobic discourse against Islam and Muslims turning into a perverse and murderous ideology. The world must raise its voice against such discourse and must say stop to Islamophobic fascist terrorism,” he said.
The founder of India’s All India Muslim Personal Board, a non-government body of scholars, Mr Kamal Faruqui, said the attack was “highly condemnable”. “An anti-Muslim virus is spreading across the world,” he told Reuters. “People of all religions should be very worried.”
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Mr Wahidullah Waissi, said on Twitter that three Afghans had been wounded. “My thoughts are with the family of Afghan origin who’ve been shot and killed at this heinous incident.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal condemned the incident on social media, using the hashtag #pakistanagainstterror.
Ordinary people expressed their horror online about a widely disseminated video of a man apparently indiscriminately shooting people inside a mosque with an assault rifle. The video has yet to be confirmed by the authorities as being posted by a shooter involved in the attack.
“Feeling very sick, that person is brainless and a savage,” said one Indonesian twitter user who identified himself as Farhan Adhitama.
The American Muslim civil rights group Muslim Advocates released this statement: “Over the past few years, there has been an epidemic of attacks and planned attacks on Muslim communities and mosques across the United States... The American Muslim community has faced deadly attacks in recent years, but rarely have we witnessed such brutal carnage as today’s tragedy in New Zealand.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said many of those caught up in the shootings may have been migrants and refugees. “They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand,” she said.