Following the brutal massacre in two mosques in New Zealand earlier this month, Asia Media staffers penned their thoughts on what it means to be an ally to the Muslim community, and how the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, exemplifies it.

MUHAMMAD ALOTHMAN WRITES– “Welcome Brother,” the first victim said to the mass shooter at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

It was March 15 of this year, when Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. gathered at Al Nour mosque for their religious Friday Prayers. Shortly after the terrorist opened fire, he took 50 innocent lives and wounded dozens more. The white supremacist who claimed credit streamed the massacre online via a camera placed on his forehead.

Once again, in the name of extremism and Islamophobia, the Muslim community has lost innocent lives, but the global community has proven that love always prevails. In New Zealand itself, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rightly denounced this tragedy of terrorism.

In fact, Ardern refuses to mention his name, citing his quest for notoriety as one motives behind the attack. Ardern even participated in Islamic religious practices this week by wearing the hijab, an Islamic headscarf, during her visit to the mosque. On the Friday after the attack, she opened with a statement with the Islamic greeting Al Salam Alaikum, or peace be upon you.

A week following the tragic assault, thousands of different ethnicities and religions gathered for Friday prayers in New Zealand. On the same day, Ardern gave a speech, saying that Prophet Muhammad’s only vision was to spread a message of unity. “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion, and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain,” Ardern said, quoting Prophet Muhammad’s hadith.

In addition, several women in New Zealand wore the Hijab to show support for the Muslim community after a Thaya Ashman, a doctor in Auckland, encouraged this due in part to the fact that one particular woman was too scared to wear her headscarf in public, thinking it would make her a target for terrorism. “I wanted to say: ‘We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you’,” Ashman told the Daily Sabah.

Support from around the world poured in, as people of different colors and religions mourned together. Kuwait, a Muslim country in the middle east, raised New Zealand’s flag on the Kuwait Towers , while mosques recited a Salat al-Gha’ib (an absentee prayer) for the deceased. Most importantly, millions around the world heard the Khutba (a speech given prior to the Friday prayer) broadcasted on several platforms, about the importance of global unity with Islam. 

MARGARET RAY WRITES– On Friday March 14, an armed suspect killed 50 people and injured dozens during the massacre at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The perpetrator live-streamed part of the attack and was arrested less than an hour later. Considered a terrorist and a white supremacist, he made sure to express his anti-Muslim motivations behind the attacks. 

In the wake of such a tragic event, Prime Minister Ardern is emerging as the progressive antithesis to right-wing representatives who espouse illiberal, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Earlier in the day of the brutal attack, the suspect announced his horrific intentions by posting a 80-page racist manifesto online. Soon after the tragedy, Ardern spoke out on her official Twitter platform, condemning the individual who committed the acts of terror at the mosques.

In addition, twenty-four hours after the mass-murder Prime Minister Ardern declared that New Zealand’s gun laws would be amended. According to Vox, reforms such as greater gun restrictions and tighter registration requirements would be implemented. These changes were confirmed on Thursday, March 21, with Ardern announcing government plans to criminalize “military-style” semi-automatic weapons.

Her decision has earned unprecedented support not only in New Zealand but around the world, especially from some U.S. lawmakers, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders.

Jacinda Ardern, 38, is the youngest female world leader, serving as New Zealand’s Prime Minister since 2017. She also happens to be unmarried and a new mother. Unconventional and highly focused, she has defied the norms of women in politics and has promised commitment to change, resonating with younger generations in New Zealand.

During her first year in office, Ardern introduced policies to address income equality, child poverty, and the housing crisis. Early 2018, in one speech she stated, “My whole reason for getting into politics was because I had this strong duty to care for other people.”  

Despite the rationality and the leadership shown by Prime Minister Ardern, the contentious debate over gun control in the U.S. remains unresolved.  Moving into the future, one can only hope that the American government will take note of New Zealand’s immediate reform decisions and implement legislation to control firearms.

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