In Depth

A Kashmiri in New Zealand: Overwhelming support didn’t make us feel like outsiders

After a series of terror attacks on Muslims worldwide drew politically correct responses in recent times, for the first time a country and its citizens have collectively condemned the terrorist attack on two Mosques in New Zealand, which killed 50 people and injured more than forty. After the attack, Kiwis are trending across the globe for their heart-warming and reassuring gesture.

By the time the horrific visuals made it to social media, many Kashmiris living in New Zealand began grappling with shock and fear.

For the first time, some of them say, their identity—outsiders and Muslims—came as a fretful reality check for them. Among them is a Kashmiri immigrant Mohammad Faisal Malik, who works in Auckland, a city in the North Island of New Zealand.

The outrageous terrorist attack on Muslim worshippers inside mosques had left the young man shell-shocked to an extent of finding himself in a state of unsettling tizzy.

Like others, Malik had seen the viral video of mass shooting—a terrorist attack—at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood at Christchurch, New Zealand. The attack happened when Muslims were offering Friday congregational prayers at around 1.30 pm.

The attacker Brenton Tarrant, 28, is an Australian citizen and has been charged with murder. He live-streamed the graphic video of killings, wherein he can be seen shooting down people in the mosques.

“I was in a state of shock and disbelief. It took me an hour or so to register what had happened. So many families lost their loved ones. It is a horrific incident,” Malik told Free Press Kashmir over phone from Auckland.

Shots of the terrorist Brenton Tarrant from the video of the massacre which he live streamed.

As soon as people came to know about it, he added, they started calling each other and their families, to ensure everyone was safe.

Amid the chilling carnage, a reassuring statement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government allayed some of the growing fears and paranoia in the Muslim community.

“Not only did the Prime Minister of the country support the Muslims, but the locals also helped and supported us, ensuring we don’t feel like outsiders,” Malik said.

There’s a small Kashmiri community in New Zealand, he added: “Most of us are based in Auckland. We were in constant touch with each other on WhatsApp or other social media platforms, just to make sure everyone was safe and got the much-needed support.”

Many Muslim organisations including one of the chief associations New Zealand Muslim Association (NZMA), according to Malik, activated and urged people to volunteer and support the victims and their families.

“Many from Auckland went to Christchurch. Even the Sikh community volunteered. A peace vigil was organised in Auckland city, in the presence of Auckland Mayor and other ministers, officials from the police department. The President of NZMA, Ikhlak Kashkari, who is a Kashmiri, was also there,” Malik, a native of Srinagar, said.

He added it was heartening for him and many other Muslims in New Zealand to see how the local community came together to comfort the vulnerable immigrants.

“At the North Shore in Auckland, at our local mosque, people have been delivering flowers, cards, messages at the doorstep of the Masjid in support of the Muslim community,” Malik said.

The support started pouring in right after the attack, he said.

The incident shook the conscience of masses across the globe. However, in no time, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the terrorist attack and called it her country’s “darkest days”. She also said, in view of the incident, some laws will change.

A day after the massacre, donning a headscarf, PM showed up to express her solidarity with the victim families.

As Malik reiterated, it was the prompt response from New Zealand Government which reassured faith of Muslims, including Kashmiri immigrants, in the country’s social fabric.

PM Jacinda Ardern while visiting the victims’ families.

“I woke up this morning feeling really sad and was replaying the events in my head, feeling bad for the victims and their loved ones. That was when a few of my [local] neighbours came to inquire about me, my family and friends. It was a heartening gesture, bringing a sense of belonging in us [Muslim immigrants],” Malik says.

“When such a thing happens, we naturally feel like outsiders. But the kind of support we’re receiving in New Zealand is not only heart-warming, but also reassuring,” Malik said, adding that the Kiwis have sent out a loud message, for the world to see, that they do not stand for this Islamophobic, terrorist attack.

 

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