Image: Masjid Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch / James Dann / Wikimedia Commons
I’m writing this from my flat in Christchurch. Only two streets over from where the Deans Ave attack happened. It’s been five days and I’m still hearing sirens, I’m still hearing the helicopters and I’m still feeling this tragic loss along with everyone in New Zealand.
The 15th of March 2019 was the day that changed New Zealand forever. When the tragic news broke, I couldn’t help but reflect on the time I spent at the Masjid Al Noor Mosque.
Last year while I was studying journalism, we had the privilege of meeting some people from the mosque, including the Imam. They came to our class and talked to us about how to represent Muslims in the media, considering how quick some news outlets are to publish and/or broadcast unnecessary comments about their faith. We asked whether New Zealand was a discriminatory place for them. They were honest and said they’ve had nasty comments thrown at them. Denise, a lady from the Mosque talked about random people on the street criticising her Hijab.
Later that evening, we were invited into the mosque to share a meal with them as they broke their Ramadan fast. As we met outside, Denise gave us women a Hijab each as a gift for us to wear in the Mosque. She showed us how to put them on, as we were all new to this but so grateful to be given the opportunity to learn.
We went in, where the Imam met us, showed us a presentation about the Ramadan fast and welcomed any questions we had. This culture was new to a lot of us, and he was so understanding. As he was talking, I noticed a man come into the room and quietly pray in the background.
Later on, the women of my class were invited to go to the women’s room. We sat in a line in the back and a few rows of women stood in front of us and began to pray. I noticed a few children were in this room too, one particular boy, no older than three, was climbing on his mother as she was praying. She calmly picked him up and continued to pray while carrying him. We sat in groups around the room and were given our dinner. The women talked to us about our course and our lives.
When I read of the terrorist’s reasons for why he chose to target these particular people, I’d never felt angrier and more upset in my life. Having experienced firsthand the generosity of those at the mosque, after they invited us in for a meal and took the time to help us to understand their culture, I’m disturbed, mad and sorry that such an act could have taken place here in Christchurch against these loving people.
While talking to one of the ladies at the mosque, she said she hopes one day people will feel encouraged to experience a mosque and not to be frightened of Muslims. As she said, they’re just ordinary people, who eat breakfast and who have a faith in god.
They’re our neighbours. They’re our colleagues. They’re our friends. I’m incredibly sorry this has happened to our Muslim community in New Zealand.Support Villainesse