NZ broken-hearted but not divided: Imam

NZ broken-hearted but not divided: Imam


World News
Zaid Mustafa, 13, lost his father and brother in the attacks in Christchurch on March 15.

Zaid Mustafa, 13, lost his father and brother in the attacks in Christchurch on March 15.

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New Zealand might be broken-hearted but it's not broken. And the imam whose prayers were interrupted by gunfire a week ago says the nation won't be divided by...

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New Zealand might be broken-hearted but it's not broken.

And the imam whose prayers were interrupted by gunfire a week ago says the nation won't be divided by hate and terror.

Across the country, thousands reflected during two minutes of silence after the Islamic call to prayer on Friday, a week almost to the minute after the slaying of 50 people at two Christchurch mosques.

Imam Gamal Fouda told a crowd gathered in Christchurch's Hagley Park he saw hatred and rage in the eyes of a killer inside Masjid al Noor on that day but he now saw love reflecting back.

"We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken," he said.

"We are alive, we are together, we are determined not to let anyone divide us."

The killing and martyring of 50 innocent people and wounding of dozens more at his mosque and the Linwood mosque broke millions of hearts around the world, he said.

"Today, from the same place, I look out and I see the love and compassion in the eyes of thousands of fellow New Zealanders and human beings from across the globe that fill the hearts of millions more who are not with us physically, but in spirit," he said.

A terrorist sought to tear the nation apart with evil ideology, but New Zealand showed itself to the world as an example of love and unity, Fouda said.

His words were met with prayer and applause from the more than 1000 Muslims who attended the regular Friday prayers.

Neither the Al Noor mosque nor the Linwood Mosque, the scene of the second shooting, could be re-opened in time for weekly prayers on the most sacred day of the week in Islam.

Instead, thousands of Christchurch locals, visitors and 30 foreign dignitaries came to support the Muslim community and survivors of the attacks.

Among them were supporters and survivors, including 13-year-old Zaid Mustafa who took his place in the front row two days after the burial of his father Khaled and older brother Hamza, 15.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke briefly before the service, during which she was praised for embracing the Islamic community.

Citing the Prophet Mohammed, she told the crowd "when any part of the body suffers the whole body feels pain."

"New Zealand mourns with you. We are one," she added.

As prayers ended, more than 5000 people made their way to the Memorial Park Cemetery for the mass burial of 26 victims.

The last of the Christchurch burials, the goodbyes included the youngest victim, three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, new father Ramiz Vohra, 28, and his father Arif, 58.

Three teenagers, and grandfather Haji-Daoud Nabi, whose last words - "Hello, brother" greeted the gunman who first attacked the al Noor mosque, were laid to rest in the two previous days of burials.

More of the injured have been released from hospital, though 27 remain, including five critical in intensive care.

A four-year-old girl remains in Auckland's children's hospital, and her father remains stable nearby.

The observances came the day after the New Zealand government announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons like those used in the attack.

The man charged with murder over the attack, 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, used two semi-automatic rifles legally bought with a licence.

From 3pm on Thursday such weapons became illegal under interim measures, until legislation is expected to be introduced by April 11.

Police received more than 1000 online notifications from gun owners surrendering weapons on Friday, and a dedicated hotline received 474 calls within 15 hours of the announcement.

Australian Associated Press

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