March 15 mosque to be used as polling booth

One of the mosques targeted in the March 15 terror attacks will be a polling booth on general election day, September 19.

Eight people were killed at the Linwood Islamic Centre on Linwood Ave.

The Electoral Commission is using mosques across the country as polling booths for the very first time.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said the motivation behind the decision was to more fully reflect New Zealand’s ethnic and cultural diversity by using mosques as polling booths, especially since premises of other faiths such as churches have been used as them in the past.

Linwood Islamic Centre. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Linwood Islamic Centre. Photo: Geoff Sloan

Al Noor Mosque in Deans Ave, which lost 43 people to the shootings, was also approached to act as a polling booth but was already booked for other activities.

Alongside the Linwood Islamic Centre, the Al Huda Mosque in Dunedin and Wellington Islamic Centre will also be mosques used as locations to cast votes in next month’s election.

Linwood Islamic Centre spokesman Abdul Aziz said this would be a “happy day” for the mosque.

“It shows that we are part of this country and we are working together,” he said.

Aziz was heralded as a hero after he confronted the gunman when he arrived at the mosque, throwing an Eftpos machine at him and chasing him away.

Latef Alabi, the mosque’s imam, said the death toll would have been far higher at the Linwood mosque if it was not for Aziz.

Aziz said while the mosque was excited to become a location for people to cast votes, the trauma was still raw.

“We are still recovering of course, especially when we are getting closer to the sentencing,” he said.

The High Court sentencing of the gunman, who pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act, will begin on August 24.

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