Attacks ‘end of our innocence’
New Zealand has become a very different place since the Christchurch terror attacks one month ago but political and cultural leaders say there’s more change to come.
The country’s legislation, media, sense of security, and identity have all been altered since the shootings at two mosques on March 15, where 50 people were killed and dozens injured.
New gun laws have been fast-tracked through Parliament, and social media companies have been scrutinised for the role they played in disseminating a video of the attack. Online censorship and hate speech are also being closely examined, with media outlets choosing to limit coverage of the shooting suspect.
Former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer said it was unusual for major legislation such as the gun laws to pass so quickly.
But the tragic nature of the attack had allowed that to happen.
‘‘This was an enormous event and it does change New Zealand forever,’’ Palmer said.
‘‘It is the end of our innocence in some ways.’’ Rules around social media would almost certainly change, he said.
New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Thomas Beagle said one month on, New Zealand was yet to see any significant changes to civil liberties.
But changes around online censorship and hate speech had been signalled.
Beagle said New Zealand was yet to reach the fork in the road between opting for ‘‘bad law’’, which would negatively impact civil liberties, and ‘‘good law’’, which wouldn’t.
Massey University senior lecturer in history and religious studies Dr Christopher van der Krogt said Kiwis were now noticing the Muslim people in their communities, whereas they might not have before. ‘‘This group of people, who most us weren’t taking much notice of, have become victims on a massive scale and suddenly, they need our support.’’
New Zealand needed to be more understanding of the Muslim community, and other religions and cultures, in the future.
Van der Krogt hoped the events would provide an incentive to add to the school curriculum. ‘‘What needs to happen is that sympathy leads to a greater understanding.’’
Massey University senior lecturer in journalism Dr Cathy Strong said that for the first time, media had chosen to keep the accused off the front page of newspapers and webpages.
A spokesperson for the International Muslim Association of New Zealand said the country had changed forever.
The Kilbirnie Mosque was holding an open day on April 27 to thank the community for their sympathy and compassion.
People outside of the Muslim community were showing an interest in attending a public forum at the mosque to express their views on how to move forward, he said.
Former Labour MP Maryan Street said New Zealanders had become more aware of their pluralist and multicultural society.