Muslims shout slogans as they condemn the New Zealand mosque attack in New Zealand, after Friday prayers at the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Reuters)
Muslims shout slogans as they condemn the New Zealand mosque attack in New Zealand, after Friday prayers at the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Reuters)

Islamic world reacts with disgust at New Zealand mosque attacks

  • Political and Islamic leaders express disgust at the New Zealand mosque shootings with some citing rising 'Islamophobia' as being responsible
  • 49 people were killed in the New Zealand mosque attacks, four people are in custody and one man had been charged with murder

Jakarta: Political and Islamic leaders expressed their disgust at the New Zealand mosque shootings on Friday, with some citing rising "Islamophobia" as being responsible. As governments in Asia and the Middle East scrambled to find out how many of their citizens had been caught up in the Christchurch bloodshed, there was also anger that the attackers targeted worshippers at Friday prayers.

"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," Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan posted on social media.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the mosque attack was a deliberate demonizing of Muslim political struggles. "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 wrote on Twitter.

In a statement, Al-Azhar University, Egypt's 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, said the New Zealand mosque shootings had "violated the sanctity of the houses of God". "We warn the attack is a dangerous indicator of the dire consequences of escalating hate speech, xenophobia, and the spread of Islamophobia."

More had to be done to promote the co-existence of different religions and cultures, the university said.

It was a sentiment echoed by United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash. "Our collective work against violence and hate must continue with renewed vigour," he said.

Search for victims

New Zealand police said 49 people were killed. 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 and refugees. "They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand," she said.

A city of about 400,000 people, Christchurch has a small Islamic community, including overseas students.

Indonesia's ambassador to New Zealand, Tantowi Yahya, told Reuters six Indonesians had been inside one of the mosques when the attack occurred, with three managing to escape and three unaccounted for.

There are 331 Indonesians in Christchurch, including 134 students, the foreign ministry said.

"Indonesia strongly condemns this shooting act, especially at a place of worship while a Friday prayer was ongoing," foreign minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement.

Afghanistan's ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Wahidullah Waissi, said on Twitter three Afghans had been wounded.

Two Malaysians were also wounded in the attack, its foreign ministry said.

Bangladeshi minister of state for foreign affairs, Shahriar Alam, said it was "extremely lucky" the country's cricket team, in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand, did not suffer casualties. The players arrived for Friday prayers as the shooting started.

"I can't even imagine what would have happened if they were there five minutes earlier," he said on social media.

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.

Terrorist attack

Ordinary people expressed their horror about a live, point-of-view video posted online showing a gunman killing any person he came across in a mosque with his semi-automatic assault rifle.

New Zealand police confirmed it had been posted by a shooter involved in the attack.

"Feeling very sick, that person is brainless and a savage," said one Indonesian twitter user who identified himself as Farhan Adhitama.

Others complained that authorities and the media were slow to label the perpetrators as "terrorists".

"This is a terrorist act. Come on now," Aszafirah Zafyrah posted on Facebook in Singapore.

"Why is it not called terrorism when Muslims are killed," said Mohammad Hanif, a government employee in Dhaka. "You should be fair enough to call it so."

By Friday afternoon, Ardern said the incident was a "terrorist" attack.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said the Australian national arrested after the attack was an "extremist, right wing violent terrorist".

Reuters's Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Gayatri Suroyo in Jakarta, Nadine Awadall in Cairo, Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Joseph Sipilan in Kual Lumpur, and Krishna N. Das in New Delhi contributed to this story.