Fear of 'mosque today, marae tomorrow' partly behind gangs reaching out to Muslim community - expert

Gangs throughout the country have rallied to show support for victims of last week's horrific shooting at two Christchurch mosques, with many putting up their hands to stand guard at prayer services tomorrow.

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Sociologist Jarrod Gilbert says response from New Zealand gang members following Christchurch terror attacks has been genuine. Source: Breakfast

Sociologist Jarrod Gilbert believes the response from gang members is genuine and reflects the magnitude of the attacks.

With a largely Māori population in gangs, there was a fear it could be "a mosque today, a marae tomorrow", he told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

The alleged shooter of the attack, which killed 50 people last Friday, expressed white extremist views and pulled white power signs in court, he said, so there was a feeling of being racially targeted.

"I've spoken to a lot of these guys and they feel this in, I think, exactly the same way as we do.

"The gangs in this country are overwhelmingly Māori, to a lesser degree Pasifika people, ethnic backgrounds, ethnic minority backgrounds, and here's this guy - obviously a white supremacist - in court giving white power hand signals - that's not making him particularly popular within these groups," Mr Gilbert said.

"I suspect, at least in part, there's some idea that a mosque today, a marae tomorrow."

Mr Gilbert said the act of gang members offering to stand guard outside mosques was "utterly remarkable" and "unprecedented in New Zealand gang history", but it also showed the the depth of feeling the attacks have left in the country.

"Watching a gang member go down and place flowers outside a mosque is not a PR exercise. It is a genuine act of love and support and strength."