Our mosques and communities have always been heavily scrutinised for signs of extremism. But as a Muslim New Zealander, my question is this: what was put in place to protect us from terrorists, writes Sohail Din
A sentiment of devastation and disgust today pervades the New Zealand Muslim community, as it does all New Zealanders. We are now confronting the impact of what is one of the biggest, most appalling attacks in the country’s history. Many are understandably focused on the headline factors of the tragedy: the number of lives lost, the details of the attack. But what bothers me are the factors that transcend those calculations.
Firstly, Muslim funerals happen usually within 24 to 48 hours following a death, and a lot of places outside Auckland simply don’t have the people and resources to carry out the burial process when there are more than a few deaths in a day. With several flights having been halted, and the difficult task of informing loved ones, to think about the process for a small community to organise a proper funeral service under the constraints, stress, and trauma is heartbreaking.
Being a Muslim, we are accustomed to seeing mosques as the safest place to go to. You never have any doubts about something going horribly wrong when you’re in the mosque. There are zero worries. You simply turn off your phone, stand alongside fellow Muslims, and pray. There would have been people waiting for their family members to return, and many will still be yet to learn about the fate of their loved ones. Among the worshippers were the elderly, children, teens, immigrants, refugees, and recent converts. The terrorist turned his gun on us based on our religion, and our religion alone. There’s a terrible irony in the fact that so many Muslims, no doubt including those who have been murdered, had moved to New Zealand owing to the safe haven they believed it provided.
Another factor that really concerns me is how much of a challenge it has been over the years to get people, especially young people, to go to the mosque. After this atrocity, that can only become harder. It’s so difficult to establish a mosque in a small country like New Zealand. It’s hard to comprehend the calamity of 49 people dying, when you consider how small Muslim communities are, and how many attendees of Friday prayers play an integral roles in making sure the mosque stays active ー everything from funding to cleaning. Today I find myself wondering how things can ever be the same.
Our mosques and communities in NZ have always been heavily monitored, scrutinised, and screened for extremism by ministries, organisations, and people. We protected ourselves from Muslim terrorists, but as a Muslim, my question is this: what was put in place to protect New Zealand Muslims from terrorists?
Yesterday afternoon around New Zealand we were were all praying at our Mosques and community centres. It could have been any of us. Life in New Zealand will never be the same for us. All I can say to my other fellow Muslims is to pray for those that have been afflicted, pray for the safety of our Ummah, and pray for all of the kind New Zealanders that have supported us. In times like this, we usually remember those that have done us wrong, but we should never take for granted those that have helped us.
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