Smelling of fresh paint, the two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch where a gunman last week killed 50 worshipers reopened their doors yesterday, with many survivors among the first to walk in and pray for those who died.
At the al-Noor Mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist, prayers resumed with armed police on site, but no graphic reminders of the mass shooting — New Zealand’s worst.
Aden Diriye, who lost his three-year-old son, Mucad Ibrahim, in the attack, came back to the mosque with his friends.
“I am very happy,” he said after praying. “Allah is great to us. I was back as soon as we rebuilt, to pray.”
Most victims of the shooting, which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quickly denounced as a terrorist attack, were migrants or refugees, and their deaths reverberated around the Islamic world.
Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who visited the Masjid al-Noor mosque, said that the attack assailed human dignity.
“This is a moment of deep anguish for all of us, all of humanity,” he said.
Police said that they were also reopening the nearby Linwood mosque, the second to be attacked during Friday prayers last week.
New Zealand has been under heightened security alert since the attack, with Ardern moving quickly with a new tough law banning some of the guns used in the March 15 shooting.
Ashif Shaikh, who was in the Masjid al-Noor on the day of the massacre in which two of his housemates were killed and who came back yesterday, said that he would not be deterred.
“It is the place where we pray, where we meet, we’ll be back, yeah,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, about 3,000 people walked through Christchurch in a “march for love” as the city seeks to heal from the tragedy.
Carrying placards with signs such as “He wanted to divide us, he only made us stronger,” “Muslims welcome, racists not” and “Kia Kaha” — Maori for “stay strong” — people walked mostly in silence or softly sang a Maori hymn of peace.
“We feel like hate has brought a lot of darkness at times like this and love is the strongest cure to light the city out of that darkness,” said Manaia Butler, 16, one of the student organizers of the march.
New Zealand and Ardern have been widely praised for the outpouring of empathy and unity in response to the attacks.
Dubai’s ruler, Emir Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, thanked Ardern on Twitter on Friday.
He posted a photograph of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, lit up with an enlarged image of Ardern embracing a woman and the Arabic word “salam” and the English translation “peace” above them.
“Thank you @jacindaardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world,” he said on Twitter.
Muslims account for just more than 1 percent of New Zealand’s 4.8 million population, a 2013 census showed, and most of them were born overseas.
On Friday, the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationwide on television and radio, and about 20,000 people attended a prayer service in the park opposite Masjid al-Noor in a show of solidarity.
Many women have also donned headscarves to show their support.
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