COMMENT:

A confession. I have previously wondered at times about the wisdom of New Zealand's immigration policy, for reasons which now seem relatively trivial.

Not anymore. The good people I saw on television from Christchurch on Friday were the same as good people everywhere. Except some are making their way in a new country where they need a new language and new cultural understandings.

Their religion is their link to their heritage and with each other. Everyone needs those links in some form, especially in a new country. The average Kiwi is far more likely to attend an Anzac Day service or an

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All Black test in another country than at home.

The stunned and grieving relatives in Christchurch are Kiwis. And now they have suffered here. Not just those who lost family in the mosques in Christchurch but all Kiwi Muslims. They have all felt the shock that someone in this country resents their presence here so much.

I hope they realise he is alone, or almost alone, and that my reaction to the massacre is shared by the vast majority of New Zealanders who have also shared my earlier misgivings. I feel sure I am right that they do. The floral tributes outside mosques say that they do.

We will never forget what happened on March 15, 2019. That big mosque in Deans Ave on the edge of Hagley Park will become a focus of annual national commemoration. It will be more than that. It will become a central experience in the identity of Muslims in New Zealand and a constant recognition by the rest of us that they were once in danger here.

They will surely not be in such danger again. If there are any other racists ranting against them on the internet from this or any country, intelligence agencies everywhere will be taking them more seriously now. And in this country they will no longer have access to firearms. I've never heard Jacinda Ardern more fiercely resolved on any subject, and she is right.

Nobody besides the armed forces, the police and authorised animal pest cullers should be allowed firearms in this country. Hobby hunters and "sporting" shooters can find something else to do for fun.

This is too soon to suggest that anything good can come from tragedy and it should never take something like this to make us recognise our common humanity. But that is what I think has happened.

I shouldn't speak for us all. No doubt many good-hearted Kiwis did not need something like this to make them honour the Muslim community here. The ultimate test of Western liberalism is to tolerate different systems of values and engage them in debate.

No self-respecting nation in the modern, globalised world would lack the presence of such a large part of the world's population practising one of its great religions.

Friday's news was probably the first time many in the world knew about distant, little New Zealand having a Muslim community.

I'm immensely proud that we do.

And I'm immensely proud of Jacinda Ardern for her response to the message from Donald Trump at the weekend. When he asked what support he could provide, she replied, "Sympathy and love for all Muslim communities".

That was brilliant. Spontaneous, genuine and absolutely spot on. It didn't just express what New Zealand was feeling, as she said. It also challenges the politics that encourages hate, as she doubtless intended it to do.

Trump will hate that she made her reply to him public. That was ballsy. Good on her. The New Zealand Prime Minister's response to white terrorism will resonate in the political discussion of all Western democracies.

It's even possible that Islamic communities in all Western countries will be safer and more welcome for what has happened in New Zealand. But our own should certainly be so.

Graves are being dug in Christchurch. I hope a fitting memorial is erected above them to become an enduring shrine to their place in our national heart.

It will be there long after the name of their alleged killer has been forgotten. If he is watching, hearing and reading of the impact he is having on New Zealand and the world I hope he is just intelligent enough to realise it is not the one he intended. Probably he is not.

He is not important. What matters now is build on the message of the flowers being placed outside the mosques and ensure that Muslim migrants here never have reason to regret coming so far for a new life in a safe place.