New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a surprise announcement on Thursday that she will step down next month as the leader of the South Pacific nation and that she will not seek re-election later this year.
“I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have but also one of the more challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges,” she told the media at a news conference.
“I will not be seeking re-election. My term as Prime Minister will conclude no later than the 7th of February,” a visibly emotional Ardern said, adding that she will stay on as a member of parliament until April.
According to reports, the first Muslims in New Zealand came in 1850s and it was an Indian family. Since then many muslims migrated to NZ and the percentage of Muslims rised in 1960s. In 1990s,many refugees fled from their home country to escape wars. The first Islamic Centre was opened in 1959 for all the Muslims living in New Zealand. At present there are many mosques and two Islamic schools.
Islam is considered to be the fastest growing religion in New Zealand. According to census 2013, a national population of 4.2 million was recorded and 46,000 of them were Muslims. The figures were increased by 30 percent since 2006 and by 2019 many people reverted to Islam making the number higher than it previously was.
The Chief Police of New Zealand is a revert herself and while addressing the crowd she said, ” “I am a proud Muslim and I am a leader in the NZ Police and I am horrified at the events in Christchurch.”
“I know this is a very very distressing time for our Muslim community in particular, but to everyone in our communities,” she added.
New Zealand prime minister addressed the Parliament with ‘Assalam o Alaikum’ but also, for the first time in history of New Zealand, invited a Muslim cleric to recite Quran in the Parliament. While addressing a massive gathering in Hagley Park, the leader recited a verse from Quran and wore a hijab while meeting the families of victims.
While some have praised Adern leadership as empathetic and compassionate, others termed it ‘ignorant’ of wider politics of ‘clash of civilisations’.
The frenzied symbolism— the new anchors speaking Arabic, the policewoman sporting hijab and #HeadscarfForHarmony campaigns, has invoked considerable disquiet.
The exchange between Ardern and the young Muslim sparked speculations over Adern accepting Islam, but also raised concerns over whether attack has been exploited to further the agenda of political Islam.
Many Twitterati pointed out that Adern donning a hijab was insensitive to the struggles of millions of women in Islamic countries that are forced to cover up under the Islamic law.
Adern also came under criticism ‘going overboard’ in her actions and upholding a religion instead of universal human values. In a way, Adern’s actions made her seem co-opted into taking a side in the purported ‘civilisational war’ between Christianity and Islam, a narrative peddled by extremists on both the sides, instead of countering it.
Adern’s decision to use Quran and Islamic preacher to make a point was widely perceived as cowing down to emotional blackmail into making imbalanced, dramatic responses, which amount to upholding one religion and its religious teachings which, in several cases, have pushed back against democratic values, women’s rights and equality.
Adern was accused of shunning pragmatism, neutrality and a sense of proportionality and balance in glossing over several issues ranging from women rights to mistreatment of internal minorities and non-Muslims in the name of religion.
Adern’s actions are vulnerable to be misappropriated by Jihadists to establish ‘superiority of Islam’ over other faiths and the clear undertones, even visible in the statement of the young man in the video, that non-Muslims are subjected to divine punishment and only Muslims are afforded ‘Jannah’ or heaven, justifying inferiority of non-Muslims.
The actions of Adern could act as a fuel to furthering of ‘Dawah politics’ which runs counter to the multicultural and pluralistic ethos that the prime minister purportedly supports. Adern’s actions not only weaken the fight against radical Islam but also disregard Muslims fighting for internal reform.
‘Dawah politics’ and broadly proselytisation with political goals has come under criticism in recent times. Dawah politics sets the high standard of leaving own belief system and conversion to Islam as the only atonement for any offence committed against Muslims, rejecting modern laws and justice system as insufficient and ineffective.
Historically, Sufi saints carried out ‘Dawah politics’ by mixing both non-violent and violent approaches, the goal of both remaining the same- conversion to Islam, former being the softer version of the latter.
A recent manifestation of ‘Dawah politics’ was found in propaganda of terror-groups. Islamic State, for instance, aimed to convert many non-Muslims around the world and then using them as fighters for the caliphate in the middle east. ‘Love Jihad’ is another example of ‘Dawah politics’. Such propaganda widely used statements of prominent non-Muslims including Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Annie Besant to establish superiority of Islam over all others, and by necessity, inferiority of other belief systems.