Faced with unimaginable death and suffering, New Zealand Muslims have responded with warmth and generosity.

That positive response comes partly from Islamic teachings, religious experts say. It is also because of a determination to fit in to New Zealand life and communities.

The aftermath of the unprecedented massacre has been marked by the near-absence of anger within the local Muslim community.

There have been some frustrated voices - most noticeably from the Islamic Women's Council, who said they had warned again and again of the growing potential for racist attacks on New Zealand soil. But the overwhelming reaction from Muslims has been one of shock, closely followed by humanity and thoughtfulness.

 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gets a hug from a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque on Sunday. Photo / Getty Images
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gets a hug from a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque on Sunday. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealanders around the country have reported random acts of kindness since Friday - an extra scoop of chips at the takeaways, a discounted taxi ride, a hug from a stranger.

"This is New Zealand's Muslim way of doing things," said Eva Nisa, from Victoria University's Religious Studies department.

"The majority of Muslims in New Zealand are very moderate, very peaceful. And the way Muslim leaders in general try to comfort other Muslims is a role model for other countries.

She added: "The very foundation of Islam is that notion of peace - we don't do retaliation."

Muslims were guided in grief by their faith.

"In Islamic tradition, when something bad happens, we need to strengthen each other, to visit people who have been hurt, to be at their side," said Nisa.

"It's very nice to know that when this happened, Muslims not only try to strengthen each other but their fellow citizens - to non-Muslims as well. It's part of their religious teaching, and it's part of New Zealand culture as well.

"You show your solidarity."


Muslims took a different approach to death.

"A martyr goes directly to Paradise," said Peter Lineham, a former history professor at Massey University who specialised in religion.

"So there is not the same trouble over death that there is in secular society which is so frightened of death."

The location of the victims' deaths - in a place of worship - was also highly significant.

"They died in the house of God," said Nisa.

"That means it's a guarantee for them to get a spot in heaven. They will get huge rewards. That's what I have heard from many Muslim compatriots."

Muslims are a tiny minority in New Zealand - around 50,000 people or 1 per cent of the population. Their mosques in this country are known for being ethnically diverse, relatively modern and moderate.

There is a sensitivity among the leadership about standing out or attracting negative attention. In a recent case, the Federation of Islamic Associations temporarily shut down a Blockhouse Bay mosque after it was taken over by an extremist imam.

At an interfaith service in Ponsonby on Sunday, leaders from the federation and the NZ Muslim Association expressed fears about how their community would be treated by New Zealanders after Friday's massacre.

"They are very determined with a methodology which says that we are going to be good citizens of New Zealand," said Lineham.

"And anybody who starts talking otherwise - they're determined that their message will be not seen as in any way sectarian. They don't want to be picked out by the community and criticised."