New Zealand Muslims are opposing the release of a film about the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings, while families are still grieving. The movie ‘They Are Us‘ will focus on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the mosque shootings with a death toll of 51.
Back on March 15, 2019, during Friday prayers an Australian man shot up two mosques in Christchurch that killed 51 people. The gunman, a white supremacist admitted to all 51 murders, attempted murder of another 40 people, and one charge of terrorism.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, ‘They Are Us‘ is drawn from Jacinda Ardern’s words on that day. The 40-year-old leader was lauded internationally for calling out the attack by a white supremacist as terrorism. What really won everyone’s heart was her compassion towards the Muslim community. And how she united her shocked country in a painful time.
What The Muslim Community Has To Say
In a statement, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Abdigani Ali shared what New Zealand Muslims feel. While the community agrees that the PM deserves recognition, now is not the time.
“There are still many sensitivities around the tragic events, … Although recognition of our prime minister for her response to attacks is well deserved, we question the timing and whether a movie is appropriate right now? The terrorist attack is still raw for our community.”
Abdigani Ali agrees the story needs to be told. But he also acknowledged that the issue must be approached in an appropriate, authentic and sensitive way.
“There needs to be a lot of work done in New Zealand in terms of hate speech laws, recognising Islamophobia does exist in our society and the institutional prejudice within our government apparatus before a blockbuster film comes out stating that we’ve done a great job here in New Zealand,” he said.
Meanwhile, PM Ardern has completely distanced herself from the project. The PM’s office said that Arden and her government have nothing to do with the movie.
What ‘They Are Us’ Is Doing Wrong
New Zealander Andrew Niccol will write and direct the movie. He told the Hollywood Reporter that They Are Us is;
“Not so much about the attack but the response to it, … an inspirational story about the young leader’s response to the tragic events”.
Muslims are questioning that focus. Some even calling out the ‘white savior complex.’ Mohamed Hassan, a journalist and poet based in Auckland laid out how this cannot be an ‘inspirational story.’ He explained why in a commentary broadcast on Radio New Zealand,
“This is not an inspiring story. It is a tragedy, one that must always be centred around the Muslim victims and their families. No one else.”