News ID: 240334
Published: 0658 GMT March 16, 2019

Thousands in Melbourne call for halt to Islamophobia, racism

Thousands in Melbourne call for halt to Islamophobia, racism

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Australia’s second-largest city of Melbourne to protest against rising sentiments of Islamophobia and racism in the wake of the recent massacre of Muslim people in New Zealand.

Protesters gathered at Victoria's State Library on Saturday to express solidarity with the Muslim community following the Friday terrorist attacks at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, Presstv Reported.

Rally organizer Jasmine Ali told Daily Mail Australia, “The Islamophobia and racist rhetoric of Australia's Coalition government has contributed to an atmosphere where vile attacks like the Christchurch shooting become possible.”

Secretary of Islamic Council of Victoria Mohammad Helmy, who was among the participants in the rally, said the "hate rhetoric being shared in the public domain" led to the attacks. “This kind of hate rhetoric, it kills.”

In a show of solidarity, a number of landmarks in Melbourne were lit up overnight in the New Zealand flag colors.

The rally was one of many protests of its kind held across the globe ahead of next week's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has condemned the terrorist attack, saying she would change the country's firearm laws.

Turkey investigates visits by New Zealand terrorist

Meanwhile, a Turkish official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ankara had opened an inquiry after it emerged that the man alleged to be the New Zealand mosque attacker visited Turkey twice.

"We think that the suspect could have been to other countries (from Turkey) in Europe, Asia and Africa. We are investigating the suspect's movements and contacts in the countries," said the official.

Turkish media reported that a manifesto published online allegedly by the attacker contained specific references to Turkey and ridding the famed Hagia Sophia in Istanbul of its minarets. Now a museum, the building was once a church before being turned into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey's state broadcaster TRT said the suspect visited Turkey twice in 2016, on March 17-20 and September 13 to October 25. The Turkish television channel has released a security camera image of him arriving at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

Turkey sends delegation to New Zealand

In a phone call to Dame Patsy Reddy, New Zealand's governor-general, on Friday, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was sending a high-level delegation, including Vice President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, to the Pacific Ocean country to open an inquiry into the attacker’s alleged visits to Turkey.

"The manifesto that the terrorist released clearly shows that this was no individual act," said Erdogan, stressing the importance of exposing the groups behind the attacks, and offering Turkey's help.      

The Turkish Foreign Ministry later released an statement, saying the delegation would stress Ankara’s resolve against Islamophobia and xenophobia and its solidarity with New Zealand in the face of these "heinous" terror attacks.

Speaking at an Istanbul airport before leaving for New Zealand, Oktay said, “This terrorist act, unfortunately, has shown us once again that there are no limits of hostility to Islam”, calling on the international community to “stand up against Islamophobia, xenophobia, radicalism, and racism.”

Bulgaria earlier said it was investigating after discovering that the gunman might have visited the Southeastern European country in November 2018.

Sotir Tsatsarov, Bulgaria's chief prosecutor, said an investigation had been launched into whether Tarrant had contacts with local citizens.

The Interior Ministry said Bulgaria is coordinating with counterterrorism teams from various countries.

In separate remarks on Friday, Erdogan denounced the deadly attack, saying it illustrated the growing hostility towards Islam "idly" watched by the world.

"With this attack, hostility towards Islam, that the world has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing," Erdogan said.

He further called on the West to take urgent actions to prevent similar attacks.

"If measures are not taken right away, news of other disasters will follow this one ... I am calling on the world, in particular the West, to take quick measures," he said.

Additionally, five major parties in Turkey's parliament issued a joint declaration in condemnation of the terrorist attack, urging Western governments and media to “wholeheartedly and categorically steer clear of rhetoric that provoke Islamophobic emotions and actions."

After Friday prayers, dozens of people gathered outside Istanbul's Fatih Mosque, one of the city's main mosques, to condemn the terrorist attack. They waved signs that read, "Stop global terrorism" and "Crusader Savagery in New Zealand." 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have denounced the terrorist attacks. 

In a Friday message, the Iranian president condemned the “terrorist and racist” attack on Muslim worshippers, and described the massacre as a “barbaric and painful” incident which broke the hearts of all Muslim people in the world, especially the Iranian nation.

 

 

   
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