Asia-Pacific

New Zealanders wear headscarves in solidarity with mourning Muslim community

New Zealanders are wearing headscarves in a show of solidarity. Source: Facebook/Headscarf for Harmony/Alicia Sowerby‎

Many New Zealanders are wearing headscarves in a show of support towards the Muslim community following the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Organisers for the Headscarf for Harmony initiative have called on people to wear headscarves in solidarity with the Muslim community following the Christchurch mosque shootings.

The social media campaign has attracted widespread public backing with scores posting tributes online supporting its message of support. 

The hashtag headscarfforharmony was trending on Twitter on Friday, with people posting photos of themselves in the Muslim attire.

 The movement calls on people to wear headscarves on Friday 22 March, a week on from the Christchurch twin mosque shootings that killed 50 people. 

Headscarves are also being worn as a mark of respect by policewomen and non-Muslim volunteers directing the crowds around a site in Christchurch holding communal prayers.

Headscarf for Harmony's Facebook page says the day is a "simple gesture" to support Muslim communities grieving the "mothers, fathers, children and friends" lost. 

The campaign has received support from the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand and the New Zealand Muslim Association. 

However, some on social media pointed out that in Muslim countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, there have been protests over the mandatory requirement for women to wear a headscarf. 

The idea for the campaign came from Dr Thaya Ashman, a GP connected with Muslim communities since volunteering as a doctor in Afghanistan.

She said those criticisms miss the point that the campaign is about choosing to show solidarity with Muslim women in New Zealand and it is not about agreeing with the lack of choice women face in their attire in other countries.

Ms Ashman told New Zealand's Stuff.co.nz that the campaign is aimed at letting the Muslim community know "we are with you".

"I heard the story of a frightened woman hiding at home, too scared to go out onto the street as she felt her headscarf identified her as a target for terrorism," she said. 

"I wanted to say we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you."

Support for the day has seen emotional tributes paid online.  

Nicola Inui called for the community to "stand together".

Kate Mills Workman, a 19-year-old student from Wellington, posted a selfie on Twitter wearing a green headscarf.

She called on New Zealanders to "make a really strong stand".

"This is all spurred on by the terrible tragedy in Christchurch but it's also a way of showing that any form of harassment or bigotry based on a symbol of religion is never okay," she said.

Annie Messing said she was wearing a headscarf to better understand the Muslim faith.

"I believe this experience will help me have a better understanding of women who choose to dress modestly," she said. 

The campaign encouraged people to wear headscarves, rather than hijabs to avoid any cultural formalities of the traditional Islamic dress.  

The show of solidarity is one of many that has taken place since the shootings including a floral tribute site at Christchurch's Royal Botanic Gardens.

People view messages at a floral tribute at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand.
People view messages at a floral tribute at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AP

On Friday Jacinda Ardern led thousands of mourners at a park in front of the Al Noor mosque, where most of the victims died, for a prayer followed by two minutes of silence.

The two minutes of silence and Islamic call to prayer was broadcast on television and radio across the country. 

Muslims answer the call to pray at Hagley Park, opposite the Al Noor Mosque, one of the mosques hit by a gunman, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Muslims answer the call to pray at Hagley Park, opposite the Al Noor Mosque, one of the mosques hit by a gunman, Christchurch, New Zealand.
SNPA

Ms Ardern has called for a global fight against the right-wing extremism, which is believed to have motivated the accused gunman's actions. 

In an interview with the BBC she said the world must take action. 

"If we want to make sure globally that we are a safe and tolerant and inclusive world we cannot think about this in terms of boundaries," she said. 

Jacinda Ardern has continued to express support for the Muslim community, following the terrorist incident. 

She used her address during a televised broadcast of prayers for the victims to remind people of the need for unity.

"New Zealand mourns with you, we are one," she said.

The prime minister herself has worn a hijab following the shootings in Christchurch as a mark of respect.

Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque.
Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque.
Getty

Additional reporting: AFP, Reuters.

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