Academic community condemns New Zealand terror attacks

Academic communities around the world have condemned the mass shooting that occurred at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday's prayer on 15 March that resulted in the killing of 50 worshippers and wounding of 40 more, including students and academics.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian, was charged with the murder during the gun assaults, which we were the worst mass shootings in New Zealand’s recent history.

A city of about 400,000 people, Christchurch has a significant Islamic community, including overseas students.

Several students and academics were among the people killed in the horrific terror attack, according to a CNN news report

Among the dead were Bangladeshi Abdus Samad, who worked as a visiting professor at the Lincoln University in Christchurch.

Haroon Mahmood, an assistant professor at Canterbury College, a private institution for international students, has been confirmed as one of the dead.

Two other victims were alumni of Pakistan's top universities, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) and NED University of Engineering and Technology. SZABIST offered condolences for the death of their alumnus, Dr Haroon Mahmood, while NED condoled the deaths of two alumni, Syed Jahandad Ali and Zeeshan Raza.

Also, Ancy Ali, a 25-year-old female student from Kerala, India, who was studying for a postgraduate degree in Christchurch, died after being injured during the attack.

Academic condemnation

Derek McCormack, vice-chancellor of Auckland University of Technology and chair of Universities New Zealand, on behalf of New Zealand universities, said in a 16 March statement: "We condemn and are all deeply saddened by the terror attacks in Christchurch. We stand by the Muslim community at this very difficult time.

"The events of Friday will be affecting those of us who are part of the international student community in different ways. Help and support is available to those who want it. Please contact the support teams at your own campus," McCormack added.

"We want our international student community to know that all universities are doing everything possible to support their students and to ensure campuses remain the safe places they are supposed to be," McCormack said.

"The universities of New Zealand make up a community that welcomes and celebrates diversity in staff and students," he added. "These attacks are not us. The love and support that will surround our students is. Please remember that."

Professor Cheryl de la Rey, vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, condemned the attacks. In a statement on Friday she said: “We abhor all acts of violence and extend our solidarity and support to our community.

“We are offering support to all staff and students. We would like to remind our students and staff that there is help available and you are not alone.”

Students and staff at the University of Canterbury were due to gather at noon on Monday in a show of solidarity.

Global condemnation

Universities around the world condemned the attack.

Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islamic learning, said the attacks had “violated the sanctity of the houses of God”.

“We warn the attack is a dangerous indicator of the dire consequences of escalating hate speech, xenophobia, and the spread of Islamophobia,” the university said in a statement published by Egypt Independent.

More had to be done to promote the co-existence of different religions and cultures, the university said.

Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, Canada, said: “We stand in solidarity with Muslims around the world in their shock, grief and outrage in the wake of these despicable attacks.” He offered his condolences to the University of Toronto’s Muslim community, and in particular the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA).

“I am proud of the contributions of the MSA, and the entire University of Toronto community, in working to overcome division and hatred, and to foster harmony and mutual respect,” he said. “Through their activities inside and outside the classroom, and through their daily interactions with others on our campuses, University of Toronto students, faculty, staff and alumni demonstrate our profound opposition to Islamophobia and every form of discrimination and racism.”

While the mass shooting was intended to sow fear and division, Gertler said, “We hope that ultimately those responsible will fail, utterly, in their vicious pursuit. And, through our individual and collective responses, we hope that our resolve to build a world of peace and unity will only be strengthened.”

In the United States, nearly 100 members of the Princeton University community gathered on Friday to honour the victims of the shootings at the mosques in Christchurch and extended their sympathies to those affected by the attacks and to Muslims across the world.

In the United Kingdom, Professor Mary Stiasny OBE, pro vice-chancellor (international) at the University of London, said everyone at the university was shocked to hear of the events in Christchurch.

"We would like to extend our sympathies to the families that have lost their loved ones in this tragic act of violence, the people of New Zealand, and students and graduates of the University of London based in New Zealand," she said.

Alt-right speaker banned

Following the attack, Australia has denied a visa to Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right provocateur and former editor of the far right Breitbart News website, after he posted inflammatory comments on Facebook suggesting such attacks happen because “the establishment panders to and mollycoddles extremist leftism and barbaric, alien religious cultures”.

Yiannopoulos has previously been at the centre of controversy for his ‘Troll Academy’ tour in the United States, where a 15 minute speech he made at the University of California, Berkeley, cost the university US$800,000 in security measures to protect his right to free speech on campus.

Australian Immigration Minister David Coleman said in a statement that Yiannopoulos’ social media comments are “appalling and foment hatred and division”, but previously he had overruled Department of Home Affairs advice to ban Yiannopoulos from visiting the country on character grounds.