LONDON: Last week on Friday 15th of March, Muslims across the world went to mosques for the weekly Friday prayers as they have been doing for the last 1500 years.
At around 1:40 pm in Christchurch, New Zealand, a fully armed 28 year old terrorist linked with the racist white supremacists and right wing extremists, entered the Al Noor Mosque killing innocent children, women and men.
The terrorist left Al Noor Mosque and drove down to a second mosque, the Linwood Islamic Centre and once again shot defenceless worshippers indiscriminately while live-streaming the entire attack on Facebook.
The attacker killed 50 people and injured 50 more, including many victims who originally came from Afghanistan.
The attack shocked New Zealand, Muslim countries and the world.
While the eyes of the world fell on New Zealand and silence ruled everywhere, Jacinda Ardern, the 38 year old prime minister of New Zealand rose to the challenge to confront extremism and terrorism head on.
As a revolutionary millennial leader Ms Ardern, unlike any other leader in history, destroyed the narrative of hate, division and fear promoted by far-right and Muslim extremists with a narrative of love and unity.
She showed and proved for the first time that terrorist acts will no longer divide our communities and our world. Hate will no longer scare us. Instead the actions of extremists, will bring us closer together, defeating extremism in its own game.
Ms Ardern, dressed in a black headscarf, embracing Muslims and sharing their grief sent the strongest possible message to all terrorists saying “Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand; they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”
She went on to say in the Parliament about the killer “He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety. And that is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. And, to others, I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.”
Ms Ardern through her words and actions broke the cycle of terrorist actions and totally nullified the claims made by extremists, where terrorists through their actions try to win sympathy and glorification among one group and provoke reaction from the other, a self reinforcing cycle that plays to the advantage of terrorists.
Instead she showed that our communities, countries and humanity will come closer together with every single terrorist action anywhere. A result in total contraction to the aims of the terrorists.
Ms Ardern killed two terrorist ideologies with a single unified action of humanity and compassion.
Yesterday, a nationwide two-minutes silence was observed in New Zealand, the Muslim call to prayer was broadcasted live on national media outlets and a multi-faith group read verses from Quran in the parliament.
An estimated 20,000 people along with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, women wearing Hijab including police officers came to Al Noor mosque in the city of Christchurch for Muslim Friday prayers to send the strongest message of unity and love ever experienced by the world following a terrorist attack.
Right now, Ms Ardern is probably the most popular leader in the Muslim countries and with the most love in the hearts of billions of people across the globe.
She has done what Muslim leaders have failed to do in decades and non-Muslim leaders did not have the courage to do. What makes her the greatest living leader today is when asked by Donald Trump, what he can do for her, she replied ‘sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.’ Furthermore, she publicly criticised Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for trying to exploit the attacks for political point scoring ahead of the country’s upcoming election. She sent her deputy, Winston Peters, to Turkey to “set the record straight, face to face”.
Ms Ardern announced a ban on all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the attacks. She said a new legislation to be in place by 11 April, saying: “Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too.” She has done what no American leader has dared to do.
Ms Ardern proved to the world and especially the Muslims through her courage and leadership, that we are all one, and those filled with hate are not one of us. This is probably the most powerful step ever taken in crushing extremist propaganda and terrorist narratives in all its shapes and forms.
Terrorist will need to think twice now because their actions will bring us closer together instead of dividing us further. There is no us and them anymore. There is only us. The people. The single human family with diverse colours, creeds and backgrounds.
As Imam Gamal Fouda of Al Noor mosque rightly said, the terrorists brought humanity and New Zealand together.
Thanks to prime minister Ardern, we have a role model now that we can follow in action to confront and eliminate the growing disease of hate, division and extremism from our communities, countries and the world.
Farhad Hotak is the CEO of Hotak Healthcare, Advisory Board Member of Afghan Council of Great Britain and Director of Afghana Foundation.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Afghan Council of Great Britain.