Muslims staying away from mosques after Christchurch shootings

8:40 pm on 15 March 2019

As the country reels from the mosque attack in Christchurch, the Muslim community is banding together in support, but staying away from mosques.

Police taping off the street out Christchurch mosque, people reunite

Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

The president of the International Muslim Association of New Zealand said his community was in shock following the shootings in Christchurch.

Wellington-based Tahir Nawaz said a mosque in Kilbirnie had not had any threats, but he was meeting with police.

The mosque had cancelled some activities, but prayers would go ahead, although people were being asked to be extra cautious, and not linger in groups outside the mosque.

The attack was not something Mr Nawaz ever thought would happen in New Zealand.

"New Zealand is known as a country with loving people and we have peace and harmony with other religions and people. Having something like this is a big shock," Mr Nawaz said.

The Jewish community and others from the area had been in touch to offer help, and were bringing flowers, he said.

"They are extending a hand to help."

Meanwhile, Federation of Islamic Federations of New Zealand head Dr Mustafa Farouk said Fridays were when the congregational prayer was held, which meant the number of people gathered was higher than on any other day of the week.

He said about 300 to 500 people would have been present at the Christchurch mosque.

Police warned anyone who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today not to go, and for mosques to close their doors until they hear from police. They were unsure if other locations were under threat and officers had been mobilised across the country.

In Northland, Muslims were holding their Friday prayers at home this evening as police patrolled streets around the Islamic centre in Whangarei.

A spokesperson for the community Suhil Musa said people were staying away from mosques and prayer centres all over the country, on police instruction.

Mr Musa said the Muslim community was grieving but he'd always felt safe in New Zealand - and still does.

He said the shootings did not reflect the nature of New Zealanders, who were a peaceful nation.

Mr Musa said he'd been flooded with messages of sympathy from friends and colleagues Muslim and non-Muslim, and the thoughts of the Whangarei Islamic community were with all the people of Christchurch.

Aliya Danzeisen

Aliya Danzeisen says a recent threat was targeting a mosque in Hamilton. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

However, two weeks ago Hamilton police were alerted to an online threat.

Aliya Danzeisen of the Waikato Muslim Association said they alerted police about a threat originating in Christchurch, that a copy of the Koran would be burned today in Hamilton.

She said police dealt with the person and there did not appear to be any obvious link to today's mosque attacks.

"The only thing was the date was mentioned today March 15 that the person intended to burn a Koran in front of the mosque ... that's what the Facebook post said."

In Ashburton, people praying at a mosque were told to go home and stay there, after reports that one of the active shooters in Christchurch could be heading south.

Ashburton Muslim Community chair Mohamed Diab said about 30 people were gathered in the mosque this afternoon.

"Everyone was worried [about] how to better security," he said.

All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams reached out to victims through social media.

In a video he posted on Twitter, he said he couldn't find the words to express what he felt.

He said he was "deeply saddened that this would happen in New Zealand".

"Sending my duas [or prayers] to the families, apparently there's close to 30 people dead," he said.

"Inshallah [or god willing], everyone that's been killed today in Christchurch ... just sending my duas [or prayers] to your loved ones ... you guys are all in paradise."

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