March 18, 2019 / 5:15 AM / 8 months ago

New Zealand Muslim leaders preach love, compassion after mosque attacks

CHRISTCHURCH/WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Muslim leaders on Monday conveyed messages of love, compassion and appreciation for the community support they had received after a lone gunman attacked two mosques, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more.

People visit at a memorial site for victims of Friday's shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Mustafa Farouk, the President of Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said the community was in shock and mourning, but was resilient.

“We know we are living in a country that we are welcome, that loves us. One of the most beautiful and most peaceful countries in the world,” he told a media conference in Christchurch, where the attack took place on Friday.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges.

Farouk said the message for those who pedalled hatred was that they had “failed woefully”.

“Because what they have done, if anything, is to increase the love and the feeling we have for our own country and we have also seen the tremendous outpouring of love, what we call aroha here in New Zealand.”

Some families have expressed frustration that the bodies of almost all victims have not been released while authorities carry out post mortems and investigations.

Under Islam it is customary to conduct burials within 24 hours.

Rehanna Ali, coordinator of women’s affairs at Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, described the process of preparing the bodies for burial.

“These people died in prayer, on their way to prayer, on our holy day, a Friday, in the precincts of our holy places. And faith was what they died for. And so faith is now part of the healing process for their loved ones.”

Over the weekend and into Monday, tens of thousands of people flocked to memorial vigils around New Zealand and a victim support website raised more than NZ$5.5 million (£2.8 million).

Hundreds visited the sites of the shootings, performing songs, bringing flowers and food, and offering condolences.

“Through all of this we try to remember that what we are bringing back to this tragedy, this horror, is a sense of compassion,” Ali told media. “The response to so much hate, has been love.”

Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Michael Perry

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