‘When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain. New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.’ With her head covered in a black scarf, standing before the Al Noor mosque, when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a white agnostic woman, quoted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it was not just humanity’s victory over bigotry. It was a day of relief for the Muslim community. For far too long, Muslim men and women have been reduced to terrorists. A beard on brown skin has become the mark of a suicide bomber and the hijab is seen as the crown of a jihadi bride. Western feminism has stomped all over the burka in the name of oppression. Burn your veils to be free! Unclothing the body is absurdly equated to freeing female minds.However, not every woman who wears the hijab is oppressed. The freedom to choose also entails being able to cover your head without being judged. But this is not the case. Last month renowned musician A.R Rehman drew criticism when his daughter Khatija was photographed wearing a veil at an event celebrating 10 years of Slumdog Millionaire. People very easily assumed that the maestro had forced the dress code upon his daughter. Khatija was compelled to clarify the issue on Twitter: ‘The veil has been my personal choice with complete acceptance and honour. I’m a sane mature adult who knows how to make my choices in life.Kindly don’t make your own judgments without understanding the exact situation.’ Similarly, young men studying at madrasahs are believed to be potential suicide bombers waiting for instructions to wear the jacket.The world has become afraid of little boys swaying back and forth as they recite the Quran because the western education system (comprising of math, arts and science) is now seen as the only acceptable form of education.There is no doubt certain madrasahs have terrorist affiliations, but terrorist attacks have also been planned by students of Karachi University and IBA. Then why should understanding Islam be akin to a crash course on becoming a terrorist? What or whom can then counter stereotypes about Muslims? As we applaud New Zealand for its compassion, we must also ask ourselves: would we do the same? Postcolonial theory has rightly criticised the depiction of white westerners as our saviours. The subaltern must speak. We are capable of surviving and telling our own stories. But the reality is that the world in general is more likely to listen to and believe the white female Prime Minister of a developed country-than leaders of developing countries like Pakistan-when she says terrorism has no religion;even beards and burkas can be covered in blood. As a nation we can repeatedly tell the world that we lost over half a million lives and $126 billion fighting terrorism. But as long as the US says ‘do more’, the world will refuse to acknowledge us as the victims. New Zealand’s response to the shooting has been noted by the global community. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, an empowered leader, donning the hijab in solidarity with the Christchurch victims is a monumental gesture. It has openly challenged long entrenched narratives which equate the hijab to being oppressed.New Zealand opening their parliament session with recitation of the Holy Quran is not just a testament to the compassion and unity of the Kiwis. It is a watershed moment for Muslims all over the world that have been stereotyped as terrorists; if Allah can be said out loud in a space filled with powerful white politicians,it no longer remains a word to be afraid of. Politicians and the public in Pakistan praised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s show of solidarity with the Muslim citizens of New Zealand. The country’s non-Muslim citizens also carried the same message of unity; headscarves were worn to show support; haka was performed to honour those who lost their lives. Despite their minority status, Muslims were made to feel at home;according to the Pew Research Centre about 1% of New Zealand’s population identifies itself as Muslim.But as we applaud New Zealand for its compassion, we must also ask ourselves: would we do the same? Would we be willing to stand by the white in our flag in the same manner? As per data gathered by the HRCP between 2013 and 2018, over 179 cases of offenses related to religion were registered. This includes attack on place of worship, clash, derogatory remarks and desecration. Recently two teenage Hindu sisters were abducted by unknown men as the local Hindu community celebrated the festival of Holi. According to a report released in 2018 by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace, roughly 1000 non-Muslim women in Pakistan are forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men every year. Will we be willing to wear a tilaka (a small red dot) on our forehead in solidarity with these Hindu women? Would we be willing to have the Vedas (Hindu holy book)recited in the national assembly?Since Hinduism is posited in direct opposition to Islam, doing so may be sacrilegious. Religious scholars would be the best judge of this. But just the idea is bound to cause uproar. So, while we thank Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for standing by the people of a religion she does not believe in, let us also reflect upon our own understanding of tolerance, minority rights and solidarity. The writer has a Masters in media with a distinction from the London School of Economics Published in Daily Times, March 24th 2019.