Mosque attacks spark outrage, fuel concern over Islamophobia

People gather at a vigil to mourn for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand, at Washington Square Park in Manhattan, in New York City, New York, U.S. March 15, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 March 2019
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Mosque attacks spark outrage, fuel concern over Islamophobia

  • London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city’s Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques
  • One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack

BRUSSELS: World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia.
In a tweet, US President Donald Trump sent “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand.
He wrote that “49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The US stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!“
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attacks the “latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia.”
New Zealand police said at least 49 people were killed Friday at two mosques in the picturesque South Island city of Christchurch. More than 20 were seriously wounded in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a “terrorist attack.”
One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police were trying to determine how they might be involved.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed those sentiments.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” he tweeted.
The secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Youssef Al-Othaimeen, said in a statement that the attack “served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia.”
In France, home to western Europe’s largest Muslim community, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ordered regional authorities to bolster security at mosques as a precaution.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the city’s Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques.
“London stands with the people of Christchurch in the face of this horrific terror attack,” he said. “London will always celebrate the diversity that some seek to destroy.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City is providing extra security for Muslim community centers and mosques. He said he wants the city’s Muslims to know that New Yorkers “truly embrace” them and “have their backs.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians are appalled by the attack and said they remember all too well the sorrow after a Canadian man shot dead six Muslim men in a Quebec mosque in 2017.
“Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest,” Trudeau said in a statement. “To move forward as a world, we need to recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat.”
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo condemned the attacks, in which an Indonesian father and son were among those wounded. Indonesian Muslim leaders expressed anger at the shooting rampage while urging Muslims to show restraint.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said bigotry in Western countries contributed to the attacks on Muslims in New Zealand. In a Friday tweet, he also criticized the West for “defending demonization of Muslims as ‘freedom of expression.’”
Afghanistan’s Taliban movement also condemned the shooting rampage, calling it an “unforgivable crime.”
Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf called on the New Zealand government to investigate “the root cause of such terrorism and hand a hefty punishment to the attackers.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attacks a “brazen act of terror.” His office said on Twitter that Israel mourns the murder of innocent worshippers, condemns the assault and sends its condolences to bereaved families.
Jordan’s King Abdullah tweeted that “the heinous massacre against Muslims praying in peace in New Zealand is an appalling terrorist crime. It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion.” Jordan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that one Jordanian was killed and five wounded in the attack.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 52 min 42 sec ago
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.