A controversial New Zealand religious leader has come under fire for rejecting the Muslim call to prayer, which is set to recognise the 50 lives lost during the Christchurch terror attacks one week ago.
Families and the community are expected to return to the scene of the terror attacks on Christchurch’s Masjid al Noor and the Linwood mosque for the first time for prayers on Friday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that two minutes of silence will follow the 1.30pm call to prayer, which will be broadcast on television and radio.
Thousands are expected to show their support outside the mosque, with many planning to hold hands in a human wall in a show of solidarity and reassurance.
But while police and contractors finalise preparations for Islam’s sacred day of worship, which will include a memorial for the dead, Destiny Church’s Brian Tamaki has slammed the decision, accusing Ardern of abusing her Prime Ministerial power and turning NZ into a “Muslim nation”.
“This is Offensive to all True Christians in Aotearoa … Our National Identity is at stake,” he posted on Twitter.
“PM Jacinda Ardern has abused her Prime Ministerial decree in allowing ‘Allah as the only true God to be sounded in Muslim prayer across the airwaves in our nation tomorrow.”
Tamaki, who in 2016 said that gays, murderers and sinners were to blame for earthquakes, was met with an immediate and brutal social media reaction for his latest comments.
“Don’t pray it then,” one person tweeted.
“The space is for others to pray it unashamed, unafraid – as they should always have had the absolute freedom to. Allow them this comfort amid the nightmare.
“Keep your mouth shut and attempt to open your heart to humanity in the way that God asks you to.”
“Yeah nah. I’ll be listening to the call to prayer alongside other Christians, Muslims, Jewish and other faiths and people of no faith,” another wrote.
“Brian, you inane pathetic cult leader, YOU are not us… NZ is a tolerant nation of many faiths, including your so-called “church,” another wrote.
Thirty foreign dignitaries are expected to attend, as well as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who will speak.
PM praised for swift weapons ban
Prime Minister Ardern on Thursday announced all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles would be banned with immediate effect in the hope such a tragedy never happens again.
Legislation to introduce the ban, which also includes high-capacity magazines and parts that can turn legal guns into assault weapons, is expected to be introduced by April 11.
But from 3pm on Thursday, the weapons became illegal under interim measures.
“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” Ms Ardern said, confident the laws will have majority support across the country.
Members of the public heaped praise on the NZ leader for their strong response just in the days after the massacre.
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges said his party would back the changes, as have police and farmers, who make up the majority of the nation’s gun owners.
After an initial amnesty period, including a buyback estimated to cost upward of $NZ100 million ($A97 million), anyone still found with the guns would be prosecuted, Police Commissioner Mike Bush warned.
All 50 victims formally identified
Commissioner Bush also announced that all 50 victims of the attack had been formally identified and their bodies could be released to family and friends.
More than a dozen were buried on Wednesday and Thursday, including 71-year-old grandfather Haji-Daoud Nabi, whose final words “Hello, brother” were to welcome into the mosque the man who would kill him.
Motorbikes roared alongside the hearse carrying his body, shrouded in white cloth, to the burial in front of a crowd of more than 1000 mourners.
Students from Cashmere High School returned for a second time, to farewell their 14-year-old schoolmate Sayyad Ahmad Milne a day after the burial of another friend, Hamza Mustafa, 15.
A third teen, 17-year-old Muhammad Haziq Mohd-Tarmizi, was buried only hours after being officially identified as one of the dead.
More burials are expected in the coming days.
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