Christchurch shootings: How the Muslim community is trying to heal

Ten months have passed since the March 15 terror attacks which killed 51 people and injured 49 more. In the wake of the attacks, members of the Muslim community say their mental and emotional wellbeing has suffered drastically. 

A report by the Office of Ethnic Communities (OEC) spoke to 250 members of the community from all across New Zealand to understand how to ensure their health and wellbeing. 

Those who spoke to the OEC expressed a need to be more vigilant with their personal safety since the massacre. 

"They felt a need to know escape routes, note who is around, and to know what places to avoid at night," read the report released on Friday. 

"Women especially told us they feel vulnerable because for many their clothing visibly identifies them as Muslim."

While respondents acknowledged and appreciated the support they received from the wider community, and the increase of knowledge about Islam, many said there had been an increase in Islamaphobia.

"Racist, hateful and Islamaphobic comments continue and, in many instances, had in fact become more overt, either face-to-face or on social media," read the report. 

"Overall, feelings of vulnerability, reduced mental wellbeing and incidents of racism appear to outweigh positive feelings and experiences," read the report. 

The report found a need for the Government to ensure better diversity in education and employment.

"The curriculum at all levels needs to better reflect the diversity of our student body by including lessons on different cultures, religions, minority groups and their history," it read.

In line with this, the report highlights the need for businesses to be more inclusive.

"There is room to create better work environments for diverse staff, for example, allowing for prayer time and providing prayer space,"

"There needs to be wider acknowledgement of the benefits of a diverse workforce, and more work done to build inclusive workplaces and create equal opportunities."

Muslim women said wearing hijab and burqa is a real hindrance in finding employment.

"It feels as though there is a certain image of what a New Zealander is, and I don't fit that description," one person told the OEC.

As a result of the report, the OEC will bump it's funding for the Ethnic Communities Development Fund to $4.2 million.

This money will be used to support research projects and fund programmes which focus on social inclusion, community development, education and employment.  

The OEC will also work alongside the Ministry of Justice to introduce new legislation to strengthen counter-terrorism laws.