‘Scared’ Muslims avoid Christchurch mosques a month after attacks

The Muslim community in Christchurch was shaken when a 28-year-old Australian opened fire at the Linwood and Al Noor mosques on March 15, killing dozens of worshipers. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2019
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‘Scared’ Muslims avoid Christchurch mosques a month after attacks

  • Muslim worshipers are still struggling to overcome their fears of going to Friday prayers because of the attack
  • “They are still very scared,” Linwood mosque Imam Ibrahim Abdelhalim said

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: Four weeks on from the New Zealand mosques massacre, the Christchurch Muslim community was struggling to get worshippers to overcome their fears and return to Friday prayers.
“They are still very scared,” Linwood mosque Imam Ibrahim Abdelhalim told AFP. “Normally we would expect around 100, but now it’s about 30.”
A 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, a self-avowed white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder after opening fire at the Linwood and Al Noor mosques on March 15.
The Muslim community was further shaken this week when a 33-year-old man, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of US President Donald Trump, shouted abuse at worshippers at the Al Noor mosque.
Daniel Nicholas Tuapawa, who pleaded guilty in court Friday to acting in a manner “likely to cause violence,” said he did not realize what he had done until police showed him a video of him yelling abusive comments including “all Muslims are terrorists.”
“I can’t believe this is actually me,” he told reporters after being remanded on bail until July 31 for sentencing.
Tuapawa said he suffered from mental health issues and had nothing against Muslims.
“It’s just because it’s been in the news and in my head,” he said.

Abdelhalim said many Muslims who wanted to return to the mosques “are having flashbacks and that’s not good.”
New Zealand police have issued a statement saying the national threat level “remains high” a month after the slaughter, even though the gunman is thought to have acted alone.
The security fears have led to a drastic reduction in the number of services later this month on Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance to commemorate New Zealanders and Australians who served in wars and peacekeeping operations.
In Auckland, only 26 will take place — down from nearly 90 last year — which the city’s police commander Karyn Malthus said would make it easier for police to maintain public safety.
“There is no information about a specific threat to ANZAC events at this time, however, it’s important that the public be safe and feel safe at events in the current environment,” she said.
In the wake of the shootings, New Zealand has rushed through legislation to tighten firearms regulations, removing semi-automatic weapons from circulation through a buy-back scheme, prohibition and harsh prison sentences.
On Friday, the government closed a potential loophole by extending the law to cover exports of semi-automatic weapons, magazines and parts.
It shuts off the possibility of gun owners snubbing the buyback scheme and selling their now-illegal firearms to overseas buyers for more money.
“These changes are essential to ensure that weapons that are prohibited in New Zealand are not exported to other countries where they would pose a similar risk,” deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.


‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

Updated 25 May 2019
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‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

  • Promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans
  • South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country

PRETORIA: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday urged the country to pursue “an extraordinary feat of human endeavor” as he was sworn in for a five-year term with a delicate fight against government corruption ahead of him.
“The challenges our country face are huge and real. But they are not insurmountable. They can be solved. And I stand here today saying they are going to be solved,” Ramaphosa told some 30,000 people in the capital, Pretoria, with several African leaders in attendance.
He promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans instead of enriching themselves. He called for a state free from graft and “resources squandered,” and urged fellow citizens to end poverty in a generation. Both would be immense achievements: Corruption and mismanagement have consumed billions of rand, and South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country.
Ramaphosa’s inauguration followed his ruling African National Congress party’s 57.5% victory in this month’s election. It was the party’s weakest showing at the ballot box since the ANC took power at the end of the harsh system of racial apartheid in 1994, as voter turnout and confidence fell.
Ramaphosa first took office last year after former president Jacob Zuma was pressured to resign amid corruption scandals that badly damaged public faith in the ANC. A former protege of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa is seen by many as having the potential to clean up both the government and the ruling party’s reputation. Without him the ANC likely would have received just 40% of the vote, one party leader, Fikile Mbalula, has said.

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ROYAL CONGRATULATIONS

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Ramaphosa a cable of congratulations on his swearing in. 
The crown prince expressed his sincere congratulations, best wishes for success and further progress for the people of South Africa

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There was no sign at Saturday’s ceremony of Zuma, who has insisted he did nothing wrong and that allegations are politically motivated. His allies within the ANC leadership pose a challenge to Ramaphosa as he pursues reforms.
Ahead of the election Ramaphosa apologized to South Africans for the political turmoil. He also vowed to continue the fight against graft that has hurt the country’s economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.
The president’s resolve to impose clean governance will be tested with the appointment of his new Cabinet in the coming days. He faces pressure from opposition parties and civil society to reduce the number of ministers — there are now 34 — and appoint ones who are scandal-free.
In a sign his efforts are working, former deputy president David Mabuza was not sworn in as a member of Parliament due to an incriminating report on him by the ANC’s integrity commission. For now, Ramaphosa is without a deputy.
In his speech on Saturday the president also addressed public frustration with joblessness, patchy delivery of basic services and the legacy of inequality. Unemployment is above 25% and much of the country’s wealth and private levers of power are held by the small white minority.
“Many South Africans still go to bed hungry,” Ramaphosa said. “Many live lives of intolerable deprivation. Too many of our people do not work, especially the youth.”
One challenge for the president in the years ahead is engaging potential voters in South Africa’s “Born Free” generation , who never experienced apartheid and unlike their parents see the ANC not as a party of liberation but one expected to deliver for the future.