Jacinda Ardern praised for wearing a headscarf to Christchurch attack memorial ceremony

Joanna Taylor
Friday 25 September 2020 09:45
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( SANKA VIDANAGAMA / Getty Images )

Jacinda Ardern wore a headscarf as she unveiled a memorial plaque for the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack.

51 people were murdered and 40 more injured as they worshipped in the Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Central mosques in March last year.

The plaque, which now stands at the Al Noor mosque in Riccarton, Christchurch, was unveiled at an emotional service led by Imam Gamal Fouda, who said that the shooting "left a scar on our hearts" but promoted New Zealand as the "mother of peace in the world" in its aftermath.

He also asked the prime minister for a national day of commemoration and that hate speech laws specifically including religion are introduced.

At a ceremony accompanying the plaque's unveiling, Ardern addressed the mourners in attendance. She reportedly said:

We do have ... provisions that deal with hate speech, discrimination, around people's different identities but religion hasn't been included in that. My view is that does need to change. 

I just think in a modern New Zealand everyone would agree no one should be discriminated against for their religion and so it makes sense that we add this to the suite of other things we say it is just not okay to discriminate people over. 

Ardern added that she wanted to change the law sooner, but "hadn't been able to deliver that last term", possibly implying that her Labour government was blocked by their coalition partners New Zealand First. Plans for a major commemorative event for the attack's victims in March were disrupted by coronavirus.

Ardern is currently in the midst of a re-election campaign: New Zealand are holding their general election on 17 October. She has promised to consult with surviving victims of the terror attack to decide whether its perpetrator, who was born in New South Wales, should be extradited to Australia to serve his time there if she is re-elected.

Currently, Brenton Harrison Tarrant is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in New Zealand. He is the first person in the country's history to receive this punishment.

Ardern was praised as a "credit to her profession" as she unveiled the plaque.

She wore a headscarf as she attended the ceremony with members of Al Noor's Muslim community.

Ardern was also praised for wearing a headscarf while meeting with victims' families and survivors in the immediate aftermath of the shooting last year.

It was cited as evidence of her respect and empathy for the Muslim community who were targeted by the horrific hate crime.

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