Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images(CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand) — New Zealanders of all religions donned headscarves on Friday in a symbol of unity as a mass funeral was held for dozens of victims of last week’s mosque attacks.
Worshipers were gunned down inside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch and then at a nearby mosque in the suburb of Linwood on March 15. At least 50 people died, and dozens more were injured.
The alleged gunman, identified as Brenton Tarrant, has been charged with one count of murder, but more murder charges are expected to be filed against the 28-year-old Australian.
The massacres sparked at least two movements to show support for New Zealand’s Muslim community on Friday.
One of them, “Headscarf for Harmony,” was organized by medical doctor Thaya Ashman of Auckland, who has spent time working in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She came up with the idea after seeing a Muslim woman on the news say she was now too afraid to go outside because she wears a hijab, one of the traditional coverings worn by Muslim women all over the world.
Ashman said there are no rules around the color or type of headscarf, nor how to wear it. Men also were encouraged to take part in the event, which runs all day, and to drape their scarves over their shoulders or wrap it around their wrist.
“This is a headscarf which both women and men throughout the world, have been wearing since time immemorial,” Ashman told ABC News. “It’s a simple invitation to the whole of New Zealand to show our support, but also to recognize our grief as New Zealanders.”
“We have to change the rhetoric in our countries,” she added, “to move towards each other, with gentle gestures and heartfelt kindness, to create the space to hear each other’s stories, to discover our similarities, build relationship, make our streets safe for each other and deliberately and determinedly choose to live in harmony.”
Another similar movement taking place Friday, “Scarves in Solidarity,” also signaled to Muslims that they are not alone.
“I just thought, why don’t we all wear a scarf on Friday, a week on from this tragedy, and walk alongside our Muslim sisters as a mark of respect,” organizer Anna Thomas told ABC News. “Women, especially those who wear the hijab, are fairly regularly fearful when they go out in the streets, and what a better way to show support and walk alongside them than to wear one.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was praised for wearing a black headscarf in public appearances in the wake of the deadliest terror attack in the country’s history. On Thursday, Ardern announced a ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons, such as the ones used in the March 15 shootings.
The Islamic call to prayer was broadcast across New Zealand’s television and radio airwaves early Friday afternoon, followed by two minutes of silence, as thousands of people gathered for vigils ahead of a mass funeral for 26 of the victims at a Muslim cemetery in Christchurch.
“New Zealand mourns with you,” Ardern said to a crowd gathered near the Al Noor mosque. “We are one.”
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