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The Al Noor mosque, where 42 people died in New Zealand’s worst terrorist attack, has reopened.
In a hugely symbolic moment for the mosque’s members and the Muslim community, small groups of people were allowed back into the building to pray and pay their respects this afternoon.
Police handed the mosque back to the community and removed a security cordon just after midday.
The Herald was permitted to enter the mosque, where there was almost no evidence that an atrocity had been committed just a week ago.
Fresh white paint was still drying on the walls. The carpet had been ripped out and had not yet been replaced. A few rooms remained locked.
Any bullet holes had been plastered over and erased. Broken windows had been replaced and painted over with an intricate design. Outside, new roses have been planted.
Two men kneeled and prayed on the right hand side of the mosque’s main room. Four women prayed on the left.
It was dead silent, with only a faint hum from the air conditioning and the distant rumble of traffic.
There were small, mundane reminders of what was life before New Zealand’s worst terrorist attack.
Signs on a noticeboard reminded of upcoming community elections, and leaflets advertised “Weekly Women’s Activities, Tuesdays and Thursdays”.
On the streets outside, hundreds of people have come to look or to be let inside. Armed police are still posted at the gates. Some mourners cried at the mosque’s gates.
Issa Khan, from Hamilton, said it meant everything to reopen the building, which is Christchurch’s largest Islamic centre.
“I will go in there, pray for the mosque, and pray for peace,” he said