'Stand together,' urges New Zealand's human rights commissioner

Stand together as an ethnically diverse nation, New Zealand's human rights commissioner has urged after Christchurch's massacre. Mosques spokesman Mustafa Farouk says his community is "doubly shocked."

New Zealand's Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt urged Kiwis to stand together Friday as the toll from a gunman's apparent racist attack on two mosques mounted in the South Island citystill rebuilding after its 2011 earthquake.

"New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world," said Hunt, whose commission is also known as Te Kahui Tika Tangata in Maori, New Zealand's other official language since 1987.

"This is not New Zealand," Mustafa Farouk, president of the South Pacific island nation's Federation of Islamic Associations (FIANZ) told Fairfax media. "We go around the world telling people we are living in the most peaceful country in the world," he said, adding "we are doubly shocked."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it "one of New Zealand's darkest days," recalling previous earthquakes and the 1979 Erebus airliner sightseeing crash in Antarctica that saw the loss of 257 lives.

'Premeditated attack'

Visibly shocked, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, a former immigration minister, urged the city's population of about 340,000 to "pull together" after what she described as an extremist's premeditated attack.

News | 22.02.2012

“Christchurch is a city that welcomes people from all cultures, religions and backgrounds and it breaks my heart to see this happen in our city," said Dalziel.

A large silver fern frond — a national symbol alongside the Kiwi bird — was placed by local residents Wendy and Andy Johnson near the targeted Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park.

"We cut the silver fern out of our garden just to let all our Muslim community know that our hearts are breaking for them today," said Wendy. "There's no tolerance for this in our society."

'Racism is an issue in New Zealand'

Susan Devoy, former race relations commissioner, ended her tenure last year saying "racism is an issue in New Zealand."

Devoy told pupils in Auckland last March that fighting racism boiled down to "sharing the real stories of New Zealanders" and treating each other with mana, the Maori word for respect.

"We knew that many Kiwis didn't think we had a problem with racism or prejudice here," said Devoy, recalling an anti-racism campaign begun in 2016 to document New Zealanders' experiences.

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Devoy cited testimony from Wong Lui Shueng, a fifth generation New Zealander who grew up in a small country town.

"Her story shocked people because after 70 years, she remembers with minute detail how a gang of boys had racially attacked and tormented her throughout her childhood.  But the day her friends stood up for her, she told us, her world changed forever," recalled Devoy.

"She told us that people need to recognize that when we say things like 'don't mix with them, they smell' or 'don't talk to them, they eat weird food,' that's how racism starts."

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

Germany 2009: Stabbing of woman in Dresden court

Marwa El-Sherbini, a pharmacist who lived with her husband and son in Dresden, was killed in Dresden's district court on July 1, 2009. She was stabbed by a 28-year-old Russian-German man shortly after testifying against him in a verbal abuse case. He'd previously called her a "terrorist" and "Islamist." El-Sherbini is considered to be the first murder victim of an Islamophobic attack in Germany.

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

Norway 2011: Mass murderer Breivik carries out terror attacks

Right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in two lone-wolf terror attacks on July 22, 2011. He first set off a bomb in the government district in Oslo before killing young people attending a summer camp on the island of Utoya. Prior to the attack, Breivik published a manifesto where he decried multiculturalism and the "Islamization of Europe."

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

USA 2015: Chapel Hill shooting

Three university students — Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha — were shot dead by their 46-year-old neighbor on February 10, 2015. The shooter described himself as an opponent of organized religion and reportedly repeatedly threatened and harassed the victims. The killings sparked outrage online, with millions of tweets using the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter.

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

USA 2015: Church massacre in Charleston

On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine African-American worshipers were killed, including a pastor at the church, which is one of the oldest black congregations in the United States. The 21-year-old suspect was convicted of a federal hate crime and sentenced to death.

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

Germany 2016: Mass shooting in Munich

A mass shooting at a shopping mall in Munich on July 22, 2016 wounded some 36 people and killed 10 — including the 18-year-old shooter. The perpetrator, a German of Iranian descent, made xenophobic and racist comments and idolized school shooters, according to police. He also suffered from depression, was frequently bullied and wanted to take revenge on people with immigrant backgrounds.

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

UK 2017: Attack on Finsbury Park mosque

On June 19, 2017, a 47-year-old man killed one person and wounded another 10 after driving a van into a group of pedestrians near the Finsbury Park mosque in north London. All of the victims were Muslims who were on their way to take part in special night prayers during Ramadan. The perpetrator later stated that he was motivated by a "hatred of Islam" and was sentenced to life in prison.

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

USA 2017: Car attack during neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville

One woman was killed and dozens were wounded when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. The counterprotesters had been demonstrating against the Unite the Right rally, a gathering of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. The suspect was sentenced to life in prison.

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

Canada 2017: Attack on mosque in Quebec

A gunman opened fire on worshipers at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City in late January 2017, killing six people and wounding over a dozen. The shooting took place during evening prayers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the shooting as "a terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge."

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

USA 2018: Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

On October 27, 2018, a 46-year-old gunman opened fire at a synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and wounding seven. He reportedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs during the attack and previously posted conspiracy theories online. It was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in US history.

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

Germany 2019: New Year's attack in Bottrop and Essen

Shortly after midnight as people were out celebrating, a 50-year-old man carried out targeted attacks on immigrants in the western German cities of Bottrop and Essen — injuring eight people, one seriously. He deliberately drove his car at two Syrian and Afghan families who were out celebrating with their children in Bottrop. German authorities said "he had a clear intent to kill foreigners."

Right-wing extremist terror attacks: A timeline

New Zealand 2019: Twin terror attacks on mosques in Christchurch

At least 50 people were killed and dozens others were injured in twin terror attacks at mosques in Christchurch. Officials called it a "right-wing extremist attack" and the deadliest shooting in New Zealand's history. One of the gunmen livestreamed the attack and posted a racist manifesto online before the attack. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it "one of New Zealand's darkest days."

Identities self-defined in statistics

New Zealand statistics — collated on the principle that residents and citizens define their own identities — list about 25,000 persons of "not further defined Middle East" origin as well as those who described themselves as Iranian/Persian, Egyptian, Arab, Iraqi, Somali, Egyptian, Lebanese and Israeli/Jewish.

New Zealand's diverse, 4.9-million population stems, for example, from Chinese arrivals during its 19th-century gold rush days, recent decades of refugee arrivals from world war zones such as Syria, and recruitment begun in the 1980s of halal slaughterers for New Zealand's key meat export trade.

During the Nazi era, exiled Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper authored his two-part book The Open Society and its Enemies at Christchurch's Canterbury University.

The Canterbury Museum was founded in 1863 by geologist/ explorer Julius von Haast, originally from Bonn, Germany.

Statistics New Zealand highlights growth in New Zealand's major ethnic groups, including indigenous Maori, at 15 percent, Asian at 11.8 percent, and Pacific Islanders at 7.4 percent, alongside 3 million with "European ethnicities," often referred to as Pakeha New Zealanders.

Ardern (center back) attended Auckland's Polyfest on Thursday

'Passports' exhibition at Te Papa

Te Papa, the national museum in the capital, Wellington, has long-term exhibitions featuring New Zealand's founding 1840 Waitangi Treaty, and "Passports," documenting New Zealanders' origins.

Migrants' stories of arriving from Britain and Ireland, as well as from neighboring Pacific islands, China, Dalmatia (former Yugoslavia), Greece and India, are told.

Among New Zealand's children, 42 percent identify with two, three or even more ethnicities, says Te Papa, citing a study done by the University of Auckland.

"Seventy percent of children were expected by their parents to identify as European, a quarter as Maori, and a fifth as Pacific," says Te Papa.

Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, has more than half a million residents born overseas, recorded Statistics New Zealand in 2014, with languages spoken being mainly English, Samoan and Hindi.