New Zealand calls for solidarity at Muslim summit in Istanbul

AP , Friday 22 Mar 2019

New Zealand's deputy prime minister said the gunman accused of killing 50 people in two mosques in the South Pacific nation would spend the rest of his life in isolation in prison and called for solidarity to eradicate "hate-filled ideologies.''

Winston Peters was speaking at an emergency session of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation's executive committee in Istanbul where he denounced last Friday's attacks as "an attack on all of us'' in his country of "religious tolerance.''

Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant was arrested and charged with murder. Tarrant, 28, livestreamed the attack and released a manifesto describing his white supremacist views and how he planned the shootings.

Peters said "no punishment can match the depravity of his crime but the families of the fallen will have justice.'' He screened photographs of New Zealanders mourning the victims.

The comment appeared to be in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who during a speech earlier this week said: "If New Zealand fails to hold the attacker accountable, one way or another we will hold him to account.''

Addressing the OIC meeting Friday, Erdogan thanked New Zealand for its "sensitivity and determined stance.'' He praised New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying her "reaction, the empathy displayed and her solidarity with Muslims'' should serve as an example to all leaders.

Erdogan slammed populist politicians who he said encouraged attacks on Muslims and refugees.

"Politicians who pave themselves the road to power by alienating Muslims and creating enemies out of refugees, must pull themselves together.'' He argued Muslims weren't the only ones affected by "rising cultural racism.''

But Erdogan himself has sparked outrage abroad by screening excerpts of Tarrant's video at campaign rallies to denounce Islamophobia but also to shore up Islamic and nationalist sentiments before the March 31 local elections.

Despite widespread criticism, Erdogan has continued showing the blurred out video with clear audio of automatic gunfire to thousands of people at rallies and broadcast live on Turkish televisions.

New Zealand has been trying to prevent the use of the video and Peters is expected to take up the issue. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos of the shootings during the first 24 hours after the massacre.

Thousands of people gathered in New Zealand for Friday prayers and to pay their respects during a mass funeral.

Peters said the government was working to ensure Muslims' safety with an increased police presence, measures on social media and new gun control laws that already went into effect.

Erdogan called for measures to combat and outlaw Islamophobia.

"We have to show our reaction in a strong way so that similar pains don't occur again and mosques are not turned into a bloodbath,'' he said.

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