Imam says New Zealand is broken-hearted but not broken

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — In a day without precedent, people across New Zealand observed the Muslim call to prayer Friday as the nation reflected on the moment one week ago when 50 people were slaughtered at two mosques.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and thousands of others congregated in leafy Hagley Park opposite the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch to observe the call to prayer at 1:30 p.m.

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“New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” Ardern said.

Thousands more were listening in on the radio or watching on television as the event was broadcast live. The prayer was followed by two minutes of silence.

Officials laid out a large area of light brown carpeting where hundreds of Muslim men sat in socks or bare feet readying for the prayer. One man in the front row was in a Christchurch Hospital wheelchair.

The Al Noor mosque’s imam, Gamal Fouda, thanked New Zealanders for their support.

“This terrorist sought to tear our nation apart with an evil ideology. … But, instead, we have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable,” the imam said.

“We are broken-hearted but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us,” he added, as the crowd erupted with applause.

Fahim Imam, 33, of Auckland, flew in Friday morning from New Zealand’s largest city for the service.

He was born and grew up in Christchurch but moved away three years ago.

“It’s just amazing to see how the country and the community have come together — blows my mind, actually,” Imam said before the event.

“As soon as I got off the plane, I saw a sign someone was holding that said ‘jenaza,’ denoting Muslim funeral prayer. Others were offering free rides to and from the prayer service,” Imam said.

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“The moment I landed in Christchurch, I could feel the love here. I’ve never felt more proud to be a Muslim, or a Kiwi for that matter. It makes me really happy to be able to say that I’m a New Zealander,” he added.

The observance comes the day after the government announced a ban on “military-style” semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines like the weapons that were used in last Friday’s attacks.

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