She has vowed to cover the funeral costs. She has offered financial assistance to grief-stricken families. She has pledged swift action on gun control but also delicately consoled and embraced and mourned in a Muslim-style headscarf, known as a hijab.
Less than a week after 50 people were killed and dozens wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won praise at home and abroad for her efforts to honor the dead, comfort the bereaved, unite political opponents and stand up to right-wing extremism.
“You may have chosen us,” Ardern said last week, the anger rising in her voice as she condemned the suspect in Friday’s attacks. “But we utterly reject and condemn you.”
On Tuesday, Ardern went further, telling New Zealand’s Parliament that she would deny the man responsible for the nation’s worst terror attack in modern history the one thing he likely craved: fame.
“He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist, but he will, when I speak, be nameless, and to others I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing – not even his name.”
Ardern opened her speech to lawmakers in New Zealand by using the Arabic greeting “As-salamu alaykum.” In English, this translates as “Peace be upon you.”Her unflinching response to the shootings has not gone unnoticed.
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of politics in the United Arab Emirates, described Ardern’s reaction to the assault as “stoic and firm.” Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, referred to her commitment to “inclusivity and equality.” The Crisis Magazine, the official publication of the NAACP, the Baltimore-based civil-rights organization, tweeted a picture of Ardern with the caption, “Dignity. Grace. Courage.”
After a conversation with President Donald Trump, Ardern was asked in a press conference what Trump could do to help the situation given that, unlike her, he did not view right-wing terrorism as a growing problem.
Express “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities,” she replied.