'Latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia': World leaders react to New Zealand mosque shootings

World leaders express condolences and condemnation following the deadly attacks Friday on mosques in New Zealand, while Muslim leaders say the mass shooting is evidence of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, shown at a vigil at the East London Mosque for the victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks, said London 'will always celebrate the diversity that some seek to destroy.' (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia.

In a tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump sent "warmest sympathy and best wishes" to the people of New Zealand.

He wrote "49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!"

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attacks the "latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia."

New Zealand police said at least 49 people were killed Friday at two mosques in the picturesque South Island city of Christchurch. More than 20 were seriously wounded in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a "terrorist attack."

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday's violence is the 'latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia.' (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police were trying to determine how they might be involved.

Pakistan, Turkey condemn rising Islamophobia

Speaking at the funeral of a former minister, Erdogan said the Islamophobia that motivated the attacks "has rapidly started to take over Western communities like a cancer."

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed those sentiments.

"I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim," he tweeted.

Women in Istanbul take part in a demonstration to protest against the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand, following Friday prayers. The placard reads: 'Say no to global terror.' (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

The secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Co-operation, Youssef al-Othaimeen, said in a statement that the attack "served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians are appalled by the attack and they remember all too well the sorrow after Alexandre Bissonnette shot dead six Muslim men in a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

"Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest," Trudeau said in a statement. "To move forward as a world, we need to recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat."

Queen Elizabeth, New Zealand's head of state, said in a message to the country she was "deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch," and sent condolences to families and friends of victims. The Queen also paid tribute to emergency services and volunteers supporting the injured.

"At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders," she said in her message.

Princes William and Harry, together with their spouses, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex, respectively, said their hearts go out to those who lost their lives.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted he learned of the attack "with horror and profound sadness.

"The European Union will always stand with #NewZealand and against those who heinously want to destroy our societies and our way of life," he wrote.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated "the urgency of working better together globally to counter Islamophobia and eliminate intolerance and violent extremism in  all its forms," a spokesperson said.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday condemned the mass shooting as "heinous and cowardly" and said  acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable.

"The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that  terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security," the 15-member council said in a statement, proposed by Kuwait and Indonesia.

Mosque security bolstered in France

In France, home to western Europe's largest Muslim community, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ordered regional authorities to bolster security at mosques as a precaution.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city's Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques.

A Muslim man at a madrasa in Mumbai holds a placard to condemn the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque attacks. (Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters)

Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, said Londoners stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch. He  also pointed his finger at those who promote religious hatred.

"When the flames of hatred are fanned, when people are  demonized because of their faith, when people's fears are played  on rather than addressed, the consequences are deadly, as we have seen so sadly today," he said.

​Indonesia's president, Joko Widodo, condemned the attacks, in which an Indonesian father and son were among those wounded. Indonesian Muslim leaders expressed anger at the shooting rampage while urging Muslims to show restraint.

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said bigotry in Western countries contributed to the attacks on Muslims in New Zealand. In a Friday tweet, he also criticized the West for "defending demonization of Muslims as 'freedom of expression.'"

Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates' minister of state for foreign affairs, tweeted "heartfelt condolences" to New Zealand.

"Our collective work against violence & hate must continue with renewed vigor. Our thoughts & prayers are with the families of the victims," Gargash wrote.

'An attack on all of us'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attacks a "brazen act of terror." His office said on Twitter that Israel mourns the murder of innocent worshippers, condemns the assault and sends its condolences to bereaved families.

Jordan's King Abdullah II tweeted that "the heinous massacre against Muslims praying in peace in New Zealand is an appalling terrorist crime. It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion." Jordan's Foreign Ministry confirmed that one Jordanian was killed and five wounded in the attack.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas extended his country's sympathies to those who lost loved ones.

"The horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch targeted peacefully praying Muslims — if people are murdered solely because of their religion, that is an attack on all of us," he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the "dastardly terrorist attack" in Christchurch.

A telegram of condolences sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis said he was "deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life" caused by the "senseless acts of violence" in Christchurch. He assured all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his "heartfelt solidarity.

with files from Reuters