Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh which means May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you.
I write with great sadness over the horrific attack that happened last Friday (15/3/19) at the An-Nur mosque in Christchurch. As a Muslim woman living in New Zealand, I am no stranger to racist slurs, comments, gestures and looks which I have encountered over the last four years. Most Muslims migrants in New Zealand could feel the brewing hate towards Islam given the experiences we have had but chose to steer away from the path of those who felt uncomfortable or threatened by our presence. To be honest, I wasn’t totally surprised with the attack but felt deeply shocked and saddened because my brothers and sisters were gunned down while they were praying at the mosque. They were totally defenceless and were at their most vulnerable stage at the time of the attack. In case some of you were wondering, we refer to each other as brothers and sisters in the Muslim community because we regard ourselves as one big family. It gives us a sense of unity and a sense of belonging.
Since Friday, I have received overwhelming support and love from family and friends which has tremendously helped me in overcoming my grief. However, I have also received responses from individuals who tried to minimise this tragedy by saying that it is a ‘one-off’ incident, or that we are spending too much time grieving. There was also a friend who voiced his concern about the upcoming amendment on the gun laws because he was worried about the loss to his gun business. What could I have said? “Sorry for your loss?”. There were mixed emotions from my Muslim brothers and sisters. Some were deeply saddened and shocked while some were telling me to stop grieving because those who were killed died as martyrs. Okay yes, they died as martyrs but that does not mean that I should not be allowed to grief or feel sad. The mosque is a sanctuary for us Muslims, it is a place of comfort where we seek solace, it is a place where we worship and seek refuge, it is a place of unity, and a place we feel at home. Therefore, we never thought that such a horrific attack could take place.
My sons would perform jummah (congregational prayers) at the Kilbirnie (Wellington) mosque every Friday and we have also prayed at the An-Nur mosque when we were in Christchurch a couple of months back. We could have been the victims but we were fortunate to not be at that place and at that time of the attack. The Muslims in New Zealand are a peaceful loving community and we are trying to get on with our lives. I hope that we will discard out feelings of hate and ‘otherness’ towards those who are of different colour, race and religion and see each other as equal.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this piece.
Haezreena Begum binti Abdul Hamid
PhD Candidate in Criminology at Victoria University of Wellington
Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un which means We belong to Allah and to Allah we shall return