'Sickening act of violence' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 16, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:29 AM, March 16, 2019

'Sickening act of violence'

World leaders slam 'Islamophobia', 'horrible massacre' at New Zealand mosques

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 demonisation that fuelled 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.

"With this attack, hostility towards Islam that the world has been has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond the boundaries of individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who is New Zealand's head of state, said she was "deeply saddened by the appalling events".

US 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."

British Prime Minister Theresa May offered deepest condolences "after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence."

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 demonised 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 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".

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