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News > World

New Zealanders Mark #HeadscarfForHarmony As Schools Review Hijab Policy

  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch.

    New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 March 2019

A large number of New Zealanders have rallied behind the movement one week after the deadly Christchurch attack.

Friday women, men and children across New Zealand were moved to donned headscarves to show solidarity for Muslim women and express support for the victims of the March 15 terrorist attack on two mosques.

Funerals Begin for New Zealand Mosques Shooting Victims

The 'Headscarf for Harmony' movement, conceptualized by Auckland medical doctor Thaya Ashman, seeks to unify Kiwis who are being called upon to attire themselves in headwear which honors the traditional Muslim hijab.

A large number of New Zealanders and allies have rallied behind the movement one week after the deadly Christchurch attack, which claimed the lives of 50 people and injured many others.

"It's choosing to move toward each other, to recognize our similarities, to not actively look for difference but to actively look to live in harmony together," Ashman added. "It's a simple invitation to the whole of New Zealand to show our support, but also to recognize our grief as New Zealanders.”

Top school reviews headscarf policy 

The movement also sets the tone for a noted private Anglican girls school in Auckland to review the institution’s uniform policy amid a ‘National Scarf Day’ campaign push and after receiving backlash for inferring that the Muslim headscarf a violation.

"We value the views of our community, we have listened and are reviewing our uniform policy," principal of Diocesan School for Girls, Heather McRae, stated.

One teacher noted, to TRT news agency, the school’s non-inclusive dress code, explaining that Muslim students were previously told visible religious items were against policy.

"Any girl or person who wants to show their respect for Muslim families affected in Christchurch by wearing a hijab to school on this day is most welcome to do so,” McRae added, also commenting that “along with all New Zealanders, we were devastated by the events last Friday and we are thinking of the Muslim community in Christchurch and those families suffering loss." 

Several other New Zealand schools are also now revising uniform policies.

"I believe that after last Friday, we need to follow the example of our young prime minister and show leadership," St Cuthbert's College’s Principal Justine Mahon said. "If our Muslim girls at St. Cuthbert's would like to wear a hijab at school, we would be supportive of that."

Baradene College of the Sacred Heart said any Muslim girls attending the school would be allowed to wear headscarves.

"The teachers are always very supportive of the girls and keen to engage in conversation," Principal Sandy Pasley said. "Our students learn about different religions and visited a mosque here in Auckland a few weeks ago."

Kiwi solidarity

Prime Minister (PM) Jacinda Ardern, who attend Friday prayers, has been lauded for wearing a scarf in the aftermath of New Zealand’s worst terror attack on record.

President of the New Zealand Muslim Association, Ikhlaq Kashkari, recognized that showing support for the hijab is “wonderful idea” and a welcomed move to foster unity among peoples while celebrating each other despite differences.

Women from various countries around the world also elected to join the movement and are posting to social media with #HeadscarfForHarmony to show solidarity for their Muslim counterparts. 

“Mere words cannot express how grateful and thankful we are for all of the outpourings of love, compassion and support we have had since the atrocities suffered in Christchurch last week,” Kashkari said, adding that “we are incredibly grateful for all of this support and hope that we will continue to stand together as a nation to prevent these atrocities even happening again on our shores.”

Prayers for victims

A two-minute moment of silence was incorporated into Friday prayers at Hagley Park, opposite the Masjid Al Noor mosque, in remembrance of the victims of the attack. The prime minister along with community leaders and foreign dignitaries attended the event.

"New Zealand mourns with you. We are one," the prime minister said in an address, to a crowd of estimated 5,000 people, before the moments of silence were observed.

Most of the victims of the mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Following the tragedy, PM Ardern promptly announced a ban would be placed on military-style weapons and parts that allow other guns to be converted.

"Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too," Ardern said at the time.

The new legislation will take effect on April 11.

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