You may recognise Wajd from her past articles on Sans Pareil about Fashion and Beauty in Christchurch. Today unfortunately, she’s written a beautiful piece for us about her experience with Friday’s Christchurch Shootings and being a Muslim Kiwi woman in Christchurch.
I was at work when I heard.
They ask you where you were when 9/11 struck. I remember where I was, and what I was doing when I heard there were shootings happening in Christchurch on the 15th March, 2019.
First it was one confirmed dead. The number was then nine. I think it was after number nine that I stopped counting. I stopped counting because I am privileged in that sense, I’m far away, I don’t need to think about that now.
I got on the train and all eyes were on me, it must be because of the shooting. I look different. They all feel sorry for me. I don’t bother to turn on my phone, it’s been an exhausting day.
I turn on the TV at home and the words pop up on the screen “unprecedented…just in urgent…tragic terrorist attack…” in red. The first time I’ve seen the words terrorist, associated with a person not of colour. The truth is, it was a terrorist attack from the start, the unnamed man ignited fear in innocent people, ignited terror.
The sad reality, is New Zealand has liked to view itself as a safe haven, as “innocent”, we are all New Zealand, right? Wrong. As a person of colour, despite being born in New Zealand, I can tell you, that sadly, this was always New Zealand. The same New Zealand where Muslim women had their hijabs ripped off in Otago, just last month, but left the incident unreported.
In this time of immense, almost unbearable tragedy, I’ve been overwhelmed by immense kindness. Kindness and compassion from the victim families that forgive this unnamed man. Kindness and compassion by the New Zealand community, my community. The flowers, the comments, have all made this experience bearable, and in spite of what the unnamed man wanted to do, it has united this somewhat fragmented society. We have become resilient, Christchurch has become resilient. The strength of love, compassion, outweighs hate. It kills hate. They cannot win, and we will not let them win. Patience in Islam is a virtue, the Prophet Muhammed Peace Be Upon Him faced all sorts of trials, this is just another trial for the Muslim community, for the New Zealand community, which we will overcome together, with love. The press release by the Human Rights Law Association states that the very same suspicion placed on the Muslim community, was ironically used against them, because they were not the ones that needed to be watched. In the words of the Association, we need to stand firm in the face of racism, in any shape or form, it will not be tolerated. We need to change political discourse, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, we are one. We need to change media representation, enough of hate speech under the guise of freedom of speech, in the words of former intelligence and defence policy analyst Mr. Paul Buchanan: “We need organised change. We cannot let racism divide us. Humanity is beautiful, New Zealand is beautiful”.