A week after a gunman opened fire at two mosques that left 50 people dead, women across New Zealand showed solidarity with Muslims Friday by wearing headscarves.
As Christchurch was set for prayers near the Al Noor mosque, where most of the victims were slain in the country’s worst terrorist attack, women and some children in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch posted pictures of themselves in headscarves.
The move stemmed from a doctor in Auckland’s idea to wear the garments, traditionally known as a hijab, after she was told about a woman who was too afraid to go outside because she thought that wearing a headscarf would make her a target for attacks, according to Reuters.
“I wanted to say: ‘We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you’,” Thaya Ashman told Reuters.
Others who followed suit echoed Ashman’s sentiments.
“Why am I wearing a headscarf today? Well, my primary reason was that if anybody else turns up waving a gun, I want to stand between him and anybody he might be pointing it at,” Bell Sibly told ABC News in Christchurch.
As a sign of modesty, many Muslim women cover their heads in public with the hijab. However, some critics view the headscarf as a sign of oppression.
Jacinda Ardern, the country’s prime minister, declared a ban Thursday on military-style rifles, which includes assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and military-like semi-automatic rifles.
On Tuesday, Ardern won praise after she told told 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.
Street gangs and motorcycle clubs across New Zealand also offered to protect the nation’s mosques during Friday prayers.
Less than 2 percent of New Zealand’s 5 million people are Muslim. Thousands of New Zealanders, however, were expected to join in the prayers in solidarity. Leaders of the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, King Cobras – and even Hells Angels – have said they will stand sentry at many of the mosques.
The shooting rocked the nation, and dozens of wounded remain hospitalized. Funerals have been taking place all week.