Judith Collins has praised Jacinda Ardern for wearing a hijab when she visited the two mosques hit by the Christchurch terrorist attack.
The National MP delivered a speech on Wednesday in Parliament paying respects to the victims of the Friday massacre when 50 people were killed by a gunman.
Putting politics aside, Collins said she would "like to thank the Prime Minister for the work she did on Saturday", adding that she thought it was "outstanding".
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Ardern visited Christchurch on Saturday, on the morning after the attack, where she visited the Deans Ave and Linwood mosques where the shootings took place.
As a sign of respect, the Prime Minister wore a hijab, a veil worn by some Muslim women in the presence of men outside of their immediate family, usually covering the head and chest.
"I know there has been unfortunate comment on the internet about the fact that [Ardern] chose to wear a scarf," Collins said, referring to some negative comments made on social media.
Collins defended the Prime Minister, saying: "I wear a scarf, Mr Speaker, and I do whenever I enter the people's places of worship where that is appropriate."
"It is a mark of respect and I thought it was the right thing to do."
In some countries, wearing a hijab is required by Sharia law, such as in Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Indonesia province of Aceh. Therefore, it has become a symbol of women's oppression for some.
In an article for The New York Times, co-founder the Muslim Reform Movement, Asra Nomai, wrote: "We see the girl's headscarf not as a signal of "choice," but as a symbol of a dangerous purity culture, obsessed with honor and virginity."
But many have come to Ardern's defence, with one person on Twitter saying she set an "unparalleled precedent of tolerance and co-existence by wearing [the] black scarf, to condole the bereaved Muslim families."
Another said: "Jacinda Ardern wore a head scarf in respect to the Muslim community. I'd like to see many women doing the same thing. Not hard. I remember wearing one myself to Catholic Church mass. It was the norm."
An image of the Prime Minister wearing the hijab while visiting the mosques in Christchurch has gone viral online. The photo, taken by Kirk Hargreaves, shows Ardern with her hands clasped and a mournful expression.
In her speech to Parliament, Collins thanked MPs for putting aside politics in the wake of the terror attacks, and also thanked police, hospital staff, first responders and "everyone involved".
"I know that we have lived in an age of innocence and that veil of innocence that we've had has been very cruelly ripped from our eyes," she said.
"And it has been ripped from our eyes because we now have 50 people dead and many others in hospital or suffering. None of that is because we decided it was going to happen."
She had harsh words for the alleged killer: "It was the act of one person - a person who refers to himself as an 'eco-fascist' - whatever that means.
"I'll tell you what I think it means, Mr Speaker: it means a filthy coward who has taken the lives of innocent people."