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Protesters hold symbolic funeral in Istanbul for New Zealand victims

A great number of demonstrators have protested the New Zealand mosque shootings outside Istanbul's Hagia Sophia — the former Byzantine cathedral that was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453, and having been serving as a museum since 1935. The protesters also held a symbolic funeral for the Muslim worshippers, who murdered by Australian white-supremacist attacker in separate shootings at Christchurch mosques.

Hundreds of protesters held a symbolic funeral in Istanbul on Saturday to mourn the deaths of 49 people murdered in attacks on two New Zealand mosques.

On Saturday around 500 protesters gathered outside the Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum but was once a church before being turned into a mosque during the Ottoman empire.

The crowds of mainly nationalist and Islamic groups unfurled banners that read "Muslims, stand tall!" and "Muslims, unite!" and conducted a short prayer service for the victims.

Police stepped up security around the building, with dozens of officers flanking the demonstration, some on horse back and others carrying riot shields.

"Everyone is aware of the rising Islamophobia all over the world; assailants find the courage to launch such attacks because of Muslims' timidity," said Faruk Hanedar, one of the demonstrators.

"We are here to show Muslims are able to respond to them with a smart attitude," he added.

Players observed a minute of silence for all the victims ahead of a football match Friday night between Istanbul giant Fenerbahçe and Sivasspor.

Australia-born 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant appeared in court Saturday and was charged with murder.

The Friday attacks on worshippers are thought to be the worst act of terror against Muslims in the West and have sparked an outpouring of grief and horror across the globe.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday condemned the murders, saying that hostility towards Islam was spreading in Western countries "like a cancer".

"With this attack, hostility towards Islam, that the world has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing," Erdoğan said.

Hundreds of people gathered in Athens on Saturday in a rally against Islamophobia, in a protest called by activists that had been planned for several weeks.

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