JAKARTA (Reuters) – Leaders around the world expressed disgust and sorrow at the killing of at least 49 people in New Zealand mosques on Friday, and some also expressed anger at what they described as the demonization that fueled such attacks.
Western leaders from Donald Trump to 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,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on social media.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the attack was a result of Muslims being demonized. “Not only the perpetrators, but also politicians & 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 for Friday prayers as the shooting started but were not hurt.
“THEY ARE US”
New Zealand police said 49 people had died. Three men and one woman were in custody and one man had been charged with murder. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said some of the victims may have been new immigrants or refugees.
“They are us,” she said. “The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They 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, who is New Zealand’s head of state, said she was “deeply saddened by the appalling events”.
U.S. President Trump described the attack as a “horrible massacre” and said the United States stood by New Zealand.
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”. Her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said: “When people are murdered solely because of their religion, this is an attack on us all.”
“FLAMES OF HATRED”
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 demonized 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.”
The Palestinian chief peace negotiator, 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 Islamic State and an attack by a far-right Israeli gunman on a West Bank mosque in 1994 that killed 29 people.
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.”
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the attack brought back memories of 2011, when anti-Muslim extremist Anders Breivik killed 77 at a youth gathering on a Norwegian island: “It shows that extremism is nurtured and that it lives in many places.”
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”.
Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Gayatri Suroyo in Jakarta; Nadine Awadalla in Cairo; Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Joseph Sipilan in Kuala Lumpur; Krishna N. Das in New Delhi; Mike Holden in London, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Michelle Martin in Berlin, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Tom Allard and Peter Graff; Editing by Nick Macfie and Kevin Liffey