Prayers resume at Christchurch mosque as Dubai honours NZ PM


Prayers have started again inside a New Zealand mosque targeted in a terror attack that killed 50 people, with those retuning describing it as peaceful.

First there were hugs, then Muslim community leaders walked back through the door to reclaim one of the mosques targeted in the New Zealand terror attack.

A week and a day after 50 people were slaughtered at Masjid al Noor and Linwood Masjid in Christchurch, police have returned the crime scenes to the community.

"As-salaam alaikum," police officers greeted those returning. Peace be upon you.

Messages of love and support have been left at mosques.
Messages of love and support have been left at mosques.
SBS News/Phillippa Carisbrooke - 18 Mar 2019.

Two groups were through the police cordon outside the Al Noor mosque at 11am (NZT) on Saturday and, after a briefing from officers outside the gates, they filtered through to the front door.

There they paused, hugged and reflected.

It was there that Haji-Daoud Nabi had greeted the shooter with kind words - "Hello, brother" - as the rampage began.

Bullet holes still stand out against white pillars of the fence, but inside the mosque has been restored to allow the community to return to their place of worship without graphic reminders of the slaying of 50 people during Friday prayers.

Delegates and religious leaders walk towards the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch.
Delegates and religious leaders walk towards the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on March 23, 2019

Across the road in Hagley Park a police cordon remains in place. Schoolchildren played cricket in a sign the community is returning to normal, but the silent tears still flowed and flowers continue to be laid.

More than 100 people watched from the park where thousands gathered for Friday prayers and a memorial the day before.

Al Noor Imam Gamal Fouda gave a sermon, a week after his prayers were interrupted by gunfire.

He reflected on the hatred and rage he saw in the killer's eyes. On Friday he saw love reflecting back from those gathered.

Flora display in Hagley Park, Christhchurch.
Flora display in Hagley Park, Christhchurch.
Nadia Maclaren

"We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken," he said.

"We are alive, we are together, we are determined not to let anyone divide us."

A terrorist sought to tear the nation apart with evil ideology, but New Zealand showed itself to the world as an example of love and unity, Fouda said.

"Today, from the same place, I look out and I see the love and compassion in the eyes of thousands of fellow New Zealanders and human beings from across the globe that fill the hearts of millions more who are not with us physically, but in spirit," he said.

That compassion will be reflected again in a March of Love in Hagley Park on Saturday morning, when the community will gather again for speeches and performances.

Fouda's words were met with prayers and applause from the community and the Muslims there to pray on the most sacred day of the week in Islam.

Survivors attended, including 13-year-old Zaid Mustafa who took his place in the front row two days after the burial of his father Khaled and older brother Hamza, 15.

Following the memorial more than 5000 people made their way to the Memorial Park Cemetery for the mass burial of 26 mosque victims, and another man who died returning to his Dunedin home after mourning his uncle's death with family.

The last of the Christchurch burials, the goodbyes included the youngest victim, three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, new father Ramiz Vohra, 28, and his father Arif, 58.

A week on, more of the injured are being released from hospital, though 27 remain, including five critical in intensive care.

A four-year-old girl remains critical in Auckland's children's hospital.

New Zealand Prime Minister announces sweeping gun law changes.
New Zealand Prime Minister announces sweeping gun law changes.

Burj Khalifa lit up with NZ PM Adern's image

Meanwhile Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has thanked Jacinda Ardern for her ‘sincere empathy’ following the attack.  

The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was lit up with Jacinda Adern's image.

"Thank you PM Adern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims," he tweeted.

A day earlier Jacinda Adern had told a large gathering in Hagley Park, opposite the Al Noor mosque, where 42 people died, that: "New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”

The man charged with murder over the attack, 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, used two semi-automatic rifles legally bought with a licence.

From 3pm on Thursday such weapons became illegal under interim measures, until legislation is expected to be introduced by April 11.

Police received more than 1000 online notifications from gun owners surrendering weapons on Friday, and a dedicated hotline received 474 calls within 15 hours of the announcement.


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