‘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.


France holds first ‘Armenia genocide’ remembrance day

Updated 24 April 2019
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France holds first ‘Armenia genocide’ remembrance day

  • France was the first major European country to recognize the massacres as genocide in 2001
  • Erdogan has accused France of being responsable for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994

PARIS: France held its first “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide” on Wednesday, provoking an angry reaction from Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Troops from the Ottoman Empire — which preceded modern-day Turkey — were responsible for massacres and forced deportations of Armenians from 1915, but Turkey has always denied that the killings amounted to genocide.
France was the first major European country to recognize the massacres as genocide in 2001 and Macron announced the national day of remembrance in February this year, saying that his country “knows how to look history in the face.”
That drew a furious response from Erdogan at the time — he called Macron a “political novice” — and the Turkish leader denounced the commemoration day again on Wednesday in a televised speech.
“If we look at those trying to give lessons on human rights or democracy to Turkey on the Armenian question and the fight against terrorism, we see that they all have a bloody past,” he said.
Relations between France and Turkey are tense, particularly due to differences over the future of Syria and the role of Kurdish fighters there, but the two countries are allies in NATO and economic partners.
Erdogan has accused France of being responsable for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, where the current government accuses Paris of being complicit in the atrocities committed by the majority Hutu community on minority Tutsis.
France has always denied the allegations and Macron announced the creation of a panel of historians and researchers earlier this month which will be tasked with investigating France’s role.
The 41-year-old French leader also announced an annual day of commemoration for the Rwanda genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people are thought to have died.
Armenians commemorate the massacres of their people on April 24 — the day in 1915 when thousands of Armenian intellectuals suspected of harboring nationalist sentiment and being hostile to Ottoman rule were rounded up.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is to lead the commemorations in France on Wednesday by giving a speech and laying flowers at a Monument for the Armenian Genocide erected on the northern bank of the river Seine in April 2003.
“We should find a way to tell them we are not blaming Turkey for that (the massacres). We are blaming the Turkish government in 1915,” French MP Jacques Marilossian, a member of Macron’s Republic on the Move party, told the France 24 channel.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Armenia — which for most of its history has been occupied by foreign powers — was divided between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their mostly Christian kin were killed between 1915 and 1917 by Turkish forces, and have long sought international recognition that this was genocide.