New Zealand TV presenters wear hijabs and speak Arabic in solidarity with Muslim shooting victims

Chris Baynes
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New Zealand TV presenters wear hijabs and speak Arabic in solidarity with Muslim shooting victims

Women across New Zealand have donned headscarves to show solidarity with Muslims a week on from the Christchurch attack.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern joined television presenters, police officers, nurses and others in wearing a hijab after 50 people were shot dead at two mosques.

Newsreaders began broadcasts with Islamic greetings as the country’s national TV and radio stations aired coverage of the first Friday call to prayer since the atrocity.

New Zealand newspaper, The Press, printed Arabic text reading "Salam", or peace", on a striking front page along with the names of the victims of last week's attack.

It comes after a spate suspected Islamophobic hate crimes in the wake of the shootings.

Samantha Hayes, an anchor of current affairs programme Newshub, said: “This week a young Auckland woman was abused on a train for being Muslim and wearing a headscarf. This happened after 50 people had been killed in Christchurch.

“I’m wearing a headscarf today for her, and for the families and friends of those killed in Christchurch a week ago.”

An Auckland doctor, Thaya Ashman, had led calls for women to wear headscarves on Friday after hearing about a Muslim who was too scared to go out as she feared her hijab would make her a target for terrorism.

Ms Ashman said: “I wanted to say: ‘We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you’.”

As Christchurch geared up for prayers at a park in front of the Al-Noor mosque, where most of the victims were killed, women in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch posted pictures of themselves in headscarves on social media.

Bell Sibly, in Christchurch, said: “My primary reason was that if anybody else turns up waving a gun, I want to stand between him and anybody he might be pointing it at. And I don’t want him to be able to tell the difference, because there is no difference.”

Ms Ardern won widespread praise last week for putting on a black headscarf when meeting members of the Muslim community after the shootings.

A police officer kept guard at a Christchurch cemetery, where shooting victims were buried on Thursday, with a scarf over her head and an automatic weapon in her hands.

Many Muslim women cover their heads in public with the hijab as a sign of modesty, although some critics see it as a sign of female oppression.

While movement in New Zealand won support and appreciation from the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand and the NZ Muslim Association, it also faced opposition from some.

In an anonymous opinion piece for news website Stuff, a Muslim woman described it as "cheap tokenism", "a gimmick and pretty distasteful".

Washington journalism professor Asra Nomani, who has campaigned for Muslim reform, urged women not to wear a headscarf for harmony.

“It is a symbol of purity culture antithetical to feminist values. We have women in jail and dead, for refusing the interpretation of Islam you promote,” she wrote on Twitter.