New Zealand Goes Full Islam After Mosque Attacks

  • New Zealand politicians, members of the media, and non-Muslim women embraced displays of Muslim faith Friday in an effort to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim community after the Christchurch shootings. 
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern donned a hijab, along with thousands of other non-Muslim women, and recited a passage from the Koran at a ceremony in Hagley Park shortly before the Muslim call to prayer broadcast nationwide, while women news anchors also wore hijabs, newspapers featured a common Arabic greeting on their front pages, and politicians began their addresses in parliament with the same Arabic phrase.
  • Despite overwhelming support for the #scarvesinsolidarity campaign, Muslim and non-Muslim critics lambasted it, arguing that hijabs are used to oppress women in Muslim majority countries. 

New Zealand politicians and journalists have all but converted to Islam in their efforts to show solidarity with the Muslim community after the Christchurch shootings.

Thousands of New Zealanders engaged in nationally sanctioned displays of Islamic faith Friday, ranging from the national broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer and non-Muslim women donning hijabs to newspapers running Arabic greetings on their front pages. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, police officers, and news anchors joined in the displays of faith throughout the day.

New Zealand broadcast the Islamic call to prayer at 1:30 p.m. local time nationwide, the time when the attacks began the previous Friday, on both television and radio. Thousands of New Zealanders of various faiths also gathered at Hagley Park and other areas around the country to attend a live call to prayer, followed by two minutes of silence and reflection.

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Ardern also recited a passage from the Koran prior to the call to prayer.

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Politicians and members of the media also reportedly began their broadcasts and addresses with the Arabic greeting Al Salaam Alaykum.

Some New Zealand newspapers also featured the a version of the greeting on their front pages.

Thaya Ashman, a doctor in Aukland, began the social media campaign #scarvesinsolidarity after the shooting urging non-Muslim women to wear hijabs on Friday as a show of support for the Muslim community.

The campaign garnered massive support throughout the country, with leaders like Ardern wearing a hijab to Hagley Park and thousands of women donning hijabs for ceremonies to commemorate the mosque shooting victims, 50 of whom were killed and several others were hospitalized with wounds. Muslim volunteers even distributed hijabs at the events and helped non-Muslim women don them, according to The Washington Post.

“Why am I wearing a headscarf today? Well, my primary reason was that if anybody else turns up waving a gun, I want to stand between him and anybody he might be pointing it at. And I don’t want him to be able to tell the difference, because there is no difference,” Bell Sibly, a woman in Christchurch, told Reuters.

Women police officers providing security for the ceremonies and later for the burial of the victims also sported hijabs.

The campaign for non-Muslim women to wear hijabs garnered criticism, however, as hijabs and various other forms of Islamic headwear for women are seen as a form of oppression against women, since wearing them is not optional for women in conservative Muslim communities.

Despite the criticism from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, New Zealand women took to the embrace of conservative Islam with fervor.

“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,” college student Kate Workman, who wore a hijab Friday, told The Globe Post.

Other women who wore hijabs, like Rafaela Stoakes, expressed similar sentiments.

“It is amazing how different I felt for the short time I was out this morning,” Stoakes told AFP.

“There were a lot of confused looks and some slightly aggressive ones,” she said. “I did feel a sense of pride to honor my Muslim friends, but I also felt very vulnerable and alone as I was the only person wearing one.”

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