Prince William praises New Zealand's leadership in Zoom call with Christchurch Muslim leaders

Members of the Christchurch Muslim community have spoken with Prince William via Zoom about how they are getting on more than a year after the March 15 attacks and the leadership New Zealand has shown the world.

Last April, following the devastating March 15 terror attacks that took 51 people's lives and left many more seriously injured, Prince William met with some of the survivors and visited the targeted mosques.

He's now spoken again to members of the Christchurch community, including Al Noor Mosque Imam Gamal Fouda and Megan Woods, MP for the nearby Wigram electorate.

Fouda told Newshub that Thursday night's Zoom call had been in preparation all week, with the Prince wanting to hear how the community was getting on. The man who committed the horrendous attacks pleaded guilty in late March - during New Zealand's nationwide COVID-19 lockdown - after having previously pleaded not guilty.

"It was a very important meeting for us and the community, to talk to Prince William again," he said.

"He wanted to hear about the situation in New Zealand now after one year, and the situation with the widows and the children and the community members, and how is it going with them after [the guilty plea] and preparation for the sentence - how the community feels about that and during the lockdown."

Prince William expressed admiration for the leadership the Muslim community and New Zealand has shown over the last year, according to the imam. 

"He said, 'You are role model of peace and good leadership in New Zealand as well as in the Muslim community,' and we talked about the role model that we as New Zealanders, after March 15, we are role models to the world," Fouda told Newshub.

"During COVID-19, the leadership of New Zealand [was] also very wise and we took the right decisions."

During the 40 minute conversation, Fouda highlighted his concerns that after lockdown, as New Zealand suffers economically from the pandemic, that Muslim Kiwis may become discriminated against in terms of employment. 

"We talked to him about the Islamic identities for young people, after the lockdown and how the young people are going to fit in that because of unemployment problems. We don't want immigrants blamed for the unemployment. It's a problem for all of us, so these are one of the concerns."

In response, Fouda said Prince William spoke about the importance of education and of religious leaders and educationalists working together.

The imam told Prince William about a partnership with imams in England.

"We will learn techniques, how can we improve ourselves to be able to make meanings of Islamic life in Western society and how to fit the Muslim young people into Western society more easily."

Reflecting on the relationship Prince William and the Muslim community has forged over the last year, Fouda said the Prince was a "great person with a big heart" for his interest and care. 

"I think think this is the essence of being human.  He is demonstrating the love to the full sense of the meaning, as a human being, as a leader," he said.

"It's a very historic moment for us and me personally to speak to him and connect with the palace.  I am a New Zealander now and I consider the Queen as my Queen, and the Prince as our Prince and our leader."