Christchurch mosque attacks: Muslim women still fear wearing hijab in public

4:25 pm on 1 April 2019

Some Muslim women are still too scared to wear a hijab in public and school children fearing for their mothers' safety are needing counselling, says migrant women's organisation Shakti.

Rina Singh, left, and Sakina Husain.

Rina Singh, left, and Sakina Husain. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Shakti is directly assisting 13 women affected by the mosque attacks in Christchurch, and said the outpouring of love for the Muslim community in the wake of the massacre has gone a long way to stem some of those fears.

"The response of the nation has helped an amazing deal," facilitator Sakina Husain said.

But for many their first instinct was, and still is, fear.

"As a Muslim, when I first heard the news, yes there was fear at having to go out and walk on the roads.

"Many of the women we deal with are not directly affected but they are still afraid of wearing the hijab and walking on the road."

"We've gotten a call from a school where children are afraid for their mothers," Ms Husain said.

The organisation has since visited the school and would be assisting to ensure the children had the help or counselling they needed, she said.

The response from New Zealanders in the wake of the attacks had helped her overcome her own fears of wearing a hijab in public, Ms Husain said.

"I don't feel afraid anymore. In terms of the response of the country, that has helped a great deal. People are hugging me now, so that is amazing.

"And I would like to say to the people of New Zealand, they have warmed my heart.

"I have no words to express how much. It is beautiful and I think the Muslim community would not be able to handle this the way they are, without this support."

Shakti case manager Rina Singh said some widows of the shooting victims would need long-term help as they dealt with their own trauma and adjusted to their new lives.

Many of the women were young housewives, did not have jobs, could not drive, or were new to this country, she said.

"One client is 23 years old with two kids ... she doesn't know how to drive. She hasn't been out there in the world dealing with money, she doesn't know what a bank card is or how the ATM system works."

"Their husbands took care of everything, so we have to teach them," Ms Singh said.

Some had experienced delays in receiving financial assistance from the government because family members had wrongly applied for the money on their behalf, she said.

"There are cases highlighted to us where family members are claiming the money, but they can't."

"The government is making sure that the money is going to the right person, it's being very vigilant of that, but is is causing delays," she said.

Shakti was also having to explain to the women what counselling was and how they could provide it if needed, Ms Husain said.

"Counselling is not something that is common place in this culture. This is my primary goal, to make sure this knowledge reaches them."

"At this stage they are in the grieving process, they are right smack in the middle of that, and they have family members with them. They not going to be able to process this ... this is going to hit them after."

"So we are here for the long term," Ms Singh said.

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