COMMENT:

It still seems hard to believe that a week ago today, most of us imagined terrorism would never happen here. Last Friday morning was like most others this summer, warm and sunny.

The afternoon, though, was shaken by news from Christchurch, bringing back to mind that February afternoon eight years ago.

But this time the shock was not seismic, it had a human cause. The victims were members of a religious community gathered for prayer. It is only in retrospect we realise how vulnerable they were. They had no reason to put guards on the door when they attended the mosque. They had come to a peaceful and safe place, they thought.

New Zealand's refugee resettlement programme and immigration arrangements generally have been working very well. Most credit, though, must go to the migrants themselves for the way they have settled here and made their new life.

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They deserve the warmth and support they have received from the rest of New Zealand in the week since 50 of the Christchurch community were murdered in their mosques.

New Zealanders have been widely praised around the world for their embrace of their Muslim compatriots at a time such as this, and it will be having a positive impact on political discussion in other Western democracies. But it is no more than our Muslim community deserves.

NZ's Muslim community has earned their public support since the massacre. Photo / Michael Craig
NZ's Muslim community has earned their public support since the massacre. Photo / Michael Craig

Today, mosques will be well attended as they are every Friday, Islam's holy day of the week. This tragedy has helped us better know one of the world's great religions. Some non-Muslim women may wear headscarves today as a gesture of solidarity with those in grief and, sadly, terror.

There is no denying that those in the Muslim community will not feel as safe now as they did last Friday morning, especially when they enter a mosque. The shots in Christchurch will be not far from their minds for some time. The rest of us must do whatever we can to help them dispel the terror the gunman intended to leave.

The police seem confident he acted alone. It is important that anyone in this country who actively supported him by relaying his detestable livestream video to others is exposed and shamed.

There might not be much that one small country, its internet service providers and its advertisers can do to stop Facebook, Twitter and the like permitting these hateful posts, but we can make it perilous for the reputation of Kiwis who pass them along. If enough recipients are willing to expose them, they might not take the risk.

But the best we can do is what many Kiwis have done, extend to the Muslim community our lasting respect for the way they have settled here, the heritage they bring, the courage they possess and the humanity they have displayed through this week of grief.