As NZ Shows Solidarity Post-Christchurch, Social Media Debates Over Donning Hijabs

"Scarves in Solidarity" and "Headscarves for Harmony" encouraged New Zealanders to wear the hijab to show solidarity with the Muslim community

New Zealand lived through horror on March 15 when a gunman opened fire inside two mosques in Christchurch, killing at least 50 people, including 5 Indians, and wounding as many. In the aftermath of the terror attack, nearly 40,000 New Zealanders attended a mass vigil in the city on March 23.

The vigil was also marked by two movements, “Scarves in Solidarity” and “Headscarves for Harmony”, that encouraged the citizens to wear headscarves modelled on the hijab to show solidarity with the Muslim community. Led by Anna Thomas, one of the organisers, the movement took shape to show a mark of respect and to shun Islamophobic ideology. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern donned a sombre black headscarf when she visited the Muslim community in Christchurch.

Women across the nation, including many TV news anchors and police officers, donned the hijab on March 22 to show their solidarity.

However, many were opposed to the movements, calling it “tokenism” and labelling the hijab as a “symbol of oppression and control”.

The March 15 attack on the mosques was carried out by a 28-year-old Australian man who was later arrested and charged with murder. He allegedly recorded his beliefs in a 73-page manifesto which documents the reason why he chose New Zealand as his target and included hate speech rhetoric.

Prime Minister Ardern, in a statement, called the attacks New Zealand’s “darkest days” and called it an act of terrorism.

“Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many, this may not have been the place they were born. In fact, for many, New Zealand was their choice. The place they actively came to, and committed themselves to. The place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities who they loved and who loved them. It was a place that many came to for its safety. A place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion.”

As a mark of appreciation, Burj Khalifa in the UAE displayed the iconic image of Ardern hugging one of the victims.