Global: Worldwide acclaim for New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern's leadership against terrorism Print E-mail

 Saturday March 23 2019

World's tallest building lit up with image of Jacinda Ardern

By Joel MacManus
The world's tallest building has been lit up with a giant image of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern embracing a woman at the Kilbirnie mosque in Wellington.

The Burj Khalifa, an 829-metre-tall skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, beamed out a photo taken by Wellington photographer Hagen Hopkins, as well as the Arabic word "salam" and its English translation, "peace".

Sheik Mohammed, the prime minister and vice-president of the UAE, and ruler of the emirate of Dubai, tweeted an image with a message of support and thanks for New Zealand.

"New Zealand today fell silent in honour of the mosque attacks' martyrs. Thank you PM Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world."

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand's 4.8-million population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, in Dubai measuring 829.8 metres.

On Friday the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationwide on television and radio and about 20,000 people attended a prayer service in the park opposite Al Noor mosque in a show of solidarity.

Many women have also donned headscarves to show their support.

Most of the dead were laid to rest at a mass burial in Christchurch on Friday, when 26 victims were interred. Others have been buried at private ceremonies, or repatriated to their home countries for funerals.

Ardern has received credit from commentators around the world for her handling of the tragedy.

Two glowing editorials by The New York Times were headlined " America deserves a leader as good as Jacinda Ardern" (Scroll down to read) , and " Jacinda Ardern leads by following no-one".

The New Yorker ran a piece titled " Jacinda Ardern has rewritten the script for how a nation grieves after a terrorist attack", crediting her empathy and action to ban military-style semi-automatics and insistence on not naming the killer.

Speaking to, Ardern has downplayed her own role in the nation's grieving. "I don't think I'm displaying leadership. I just think I'm displaying humanity," she said.

"In politics we can choose to model behaviour ... I genuinely believe that all I am modelling are the values of New Zealanders. On every occasion when I've had an opportunity to share words, all I've reflected in my mind is: 'What are New Zealanders feeling right now? What are the words I'm hearing expressed around me? How do we all feel?'" with Reuters
 Friday March 22, 2019, Page A22

America Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand's prime minister moved swiftly to ban weapons of mass killing after a gunman attacked two mosques.

By The Editorial Board
(The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.)

Jacinda Ardern (Edgar Su/Reuter)

The murder of 50 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand, allegedly by a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, will be long scrutinized for the way violent hatreds are spawned and staged on social media and the internet. But now the world should learn from the way Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, has responded to the horror.

Almost immediately after last Friday's killings, Ms. Ardern listened to her constituents' outrage and declared that within days her government would introduce new controls on the military-style weapons that the Christchurch shooter and many of the mass killers in the United States have used on their rampages. And she delivered.

On Thursday, Ms. Ardern announced a ban on all military-style semiautomatic and automatic weapons, parts that can be used to turn other rifles into such weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. "It's about all of us," she said, "it's in the national interest and it's about safety."

Earlier in the week, she told Parliament that social media sites must address the ease with which the internet can be used to spew hate and images of violence. "We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published," she said. "It cannot be a case of all profit, no responsibility."

Ms. Ardern didn't propose immediate measures to limit the reach of Facebook, Twitter and other internet publishers, and it's not obvious what could be done without trampling freedom of speech. But she made clear that she believed that those social media platforms, like gun manufacturers and dealers, bore some responsibility for the carnage visited on Christchurch and so many communities in recent years.

The new gun proposal will require considerable fine-tuning and defining before it becomes law. New Zealand's existing laws are relatively lenient, and a large percentage of the estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million firearms owned by about 250,000 people are not registered. It is not known how many of these will become illegal under the new laws.

But the display of what one deranged man can do with weapons designed for combat seemed to persuade a majority of New Zealanders, and a strong majority in Parliament, of the need to ban rapid-firing weapons.

That attitude stood in stark contrast to the way the National Rifle Association and its political allies in the United States have resisted any restrictions on weapons like the AR-15, the semiautomatic rifle used in several mass killings.

In New Zealand, it took one mass shooting to awaken the government. In the United States, even a string of mass killings ­ 26 dead in a school in Newtown, Conn.; 49 in a nightclub in Orlando; 58 at a concert in Las Vegas; 17 in a school in Parkland, Fla. ­ has not been enough. Nor has the fact that 73 percent of Americans say that more needs to be done to curb gun violence, according to recent polling.

The ban on terrorists' weapon of choice was only one of the areas in which Ms. Ardern showed what leadership looks like in time of crisis. In lieu of trite messages, she donned a black head scarf and led a group of politicians to visit victims' families; speaking without a script to a school some of the victims attended, she urged the pupils to "let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism. Ever." She told grieving families, "We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage."

And in a striking gesture, she refused to utter the name of the suspected killer. "He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing," she said. "Not even his name."      

After this and any such atrocity, the world's leaders should unite in clearly condemning racism, sharing in the grief of the victims and stripping the haters of their weapons. Ms. Ardern has shown the way.
 Thursday  Thursday March 21, 2019


Lessons from Kiwi PM

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is only 38 years old, has given remarkable leadership not only to her country but to the world.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

After last week's horrific terrorist shooting by a white supremacist at two Christchurch mosques that claimed 50 lives, all Muslim immigrants, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is only 38 years old, has given remarkable leadership not only to her country but to the world.

Since Islamophobia is rampant worldwide, especially in Western societies, due to terrorism being adopted as their key instrument by Islamists, European and American leaders haven't shown too much sympathy for Muslim migrants and refugees fleeing the wars and economic dislocation in their home countries. Ms Ardern could easily have got away by being just polite and correct in the face of the terrorist tragedy. But she chose not to.

In her first remarks after the Christchurch massacre, she noted: "The person who carried out the terrorist attack has no place in New Zealand (he's an Australian)... Many of those affected are members of our migrant communities ­ New Zealand is their home ­ they are us."

At once this observation closes the gap between settled the majority communities in a society and "outsiders", bridges the colour and race divide between white and non-white, and the marker of religion between New Zealand's Christian majority and Muslims. US President Donald Trump and many European leaders have much to learn from this.

In India too, in recent times, there has been an ongoing effort by some elements to draw a cleavage between the country's Hindu majority and Muslims, although the latter have been a part of our social, cultural and political fabric for over a millennium. We all need to learn from Ms Ardern.

 Thursday  Thursday March 21, 2019

Dev 360: Why India & world should learn from NZ's Ardern  

In India, we have seen hatred towards Muslims being fuelled and sustained by words and deeds.

By Patralekha Chatterjee
She focuses on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at

  New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Size does not matter. A small country can outshine big ones by moral clarity and strategic vision in the leadership stakes, as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shown.

Ms Ardern's exemplary words and actions after a terrorist shot dead 50 Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch unequivocally signals that New Zealand, a country of about five million people, is pluralistic, and that it will ferociously push back against the ideological infrastructure which nourishes majoritarian visions. Ms Ardern could have chosen to express shock, horror and stop at condemning the terror attack. But she went way beyond. Her first response, even before all the details were known, leaped out to millions across the world. She said: "They have chosen to make this their home. They are us."

By this simple statement, Ms Ardern had bridged the "us and them" divide that stalks natives and those of immigrant stock, and minority populations everywhere. What she said was to affirm a simple but much-needed message ­ the terrorist who had come from Australia killed Muslims who were not "they" but "us" New Zealanders.

Ms Ardern has been covering her head while meeting families of the victims ­ a mark of cultural sensitivity. She has also shown her astuteness by declaring that she would never take the name of the terrorist, thereby denying him, and people like him, the notoriety they seek. She asks people to remember the victims by name instead. This is not just symbolism. The conscious de-personalisation of the terrorist shows an astute way to deal with extremism and terrorism. Concretely, Ms Ardern has followed up with plans to overhaul New Zealand's gun laws.

If Jacinda Ardern's words and deeds were mealy-mouthed platitudes, they would not have resonated with so many people across the world. They resonate, including with this writer, and many others in India, because they are the powerful signals we are looking for in an increasingly polarised society where the "us and them" divide is leading to rising stigmatisation and violence.

It is as important to neutralise and counter the ideological infrastructure that pushes people to become terrorists as to catch the terrorists and their allies. At a time when anti-minority rhetoric threatens to rip apart social cohesion in democracies across the world, Ms Ardern matters, because she is explicitly telling people who are visibly or culturally different from the "majority" that they are part of the same family, not outsiders. This is intended to make them feel secure when they are at their most fragile. Crucially, Ms Ardern did not resort to what-aboutery in the hour of crisis.

This should make us in India introspect deeply. Our multi-cultural fabric is being ripped apart by an ideology that is gaining traction and that privileges the sentiments of the most bigoted members of the majority community. One of the most worrying trends on the social media, which is playing an increasingly important role in shaping public opinion in this country, is the tendency to conflate two very different things ­ radical Islamic terrorist groups and ordinary Muslims. It is dangerous what-aboutery to start talking about Islamic terrorist groups each time Muslims are targeted by terrorists simply because they are Muslims, though they have nothing to do with terrorism. The Christchurch attack was an act of terror by a white supremacist who unapologetically hates Muslims and every other minority group.

In India, we have seen hatred towards Muslims being fuelled and sustained by words and deeds. Take the most recent example of the attacks on Kashmiri students and shopkeepers in different parts of the country when an Islamist terrorist linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked a CRPF bus in Pulwama, killing over 40 jawans.

What would have helped is an immediate, unambiguous signal, which went beyond just expressing grief, anguish or condemnation. Like an immediate, unequivocal statement from the Prime Minister that while terrorists and their minders will be dealt with severely, ordinary Kashmiris were "us" and attacks on them of any kind is an attack on us. He needed to make it very clear at once that the ideological infrastructure that equates every Kashmiri and every Muslim with all that is bad will not be tolerated.

These statements were made, but they were weak, and they came late. Nor was this identification with victims of terror demonstrably shown each time an ordinary Muslim was lynched, whether in the name of protecting the cow or anything else. Instead, what we have seen are immediate and provocative statements by other lawmakers. Take just one example: Bharatiya Janata Party MP Vinay Katiyar was quoted in the media as saying, while replying to questions on mob lynching: "When such incidents happen, people from the other community should also think about it. They shouldn't touch cows when they know Hindus get aggressive over it. They shouldn't kill cows." This emboldens extremist peddlers of hate and leads to hate crimes.

Here is some data. "The Observer Research Foundation in March 2018 released a study based on a statistical mapping of hate speech and counter-speech on the social media pages active in India. The study, a first of its kind, revealed that religion and ‘religio-cultural' practices related to food and dress, were the most explicit basis for hate as expressed in Indian social media: they accounted for a rise from 19 to 30 per cent of the incidents over the one-year timeframe of the study," points out Maya Mirchandani in a August 2018 paper titled "Digital hatred, real violence: Majoritarian radicalisation and social media in India". She wrote: "The data was gathered from public pages in two separate month-long time periods spread over 12 months starting from July 2016. Most of the comments incited bodily harm or violence against people belonging to India's Muslim community who comprise about 180 million of the country's 1.2-billion-strong population... Subjects that evoked hate speech ranged from opposition to inter-faith marriage between Hindus and Muslims, positions on universal human rights, and the contentious issues of cow protection and beef consumption."

There is a moral as well as a business case for social cohesion. No country or society can realise its potential if specific groups of people are made to feel they don't belong and made to cower in fear of physical and psychological attacks. Jacinda Ardern understands this. India's political leaders, from the top to the bottom, could learn a lot from her.