I am numb with pain; with this feeling of tremendous loss; with this feeling of utter helplessness; with shock and indignation that the we allowed this to happen. We all played a part. We stood silent in the face of past acts of hatred and violence. We did not mobilize to help those of our own faith and those of other faiths when they were attacked similarly in the past. We were passive, satisfied in our ignorance of where the world was headed. Because, Waleed Aly, a journalist from The Project, an Australian news commentary program, was right. The most dishonest thing that we can say right now is that this came as a shock. We all knew that this is exactly what was coming and yet we did not act.
White supremacist rhetoric has been on an unprecedented rise in the past few years. It is Islamophobic and it is anti-Semite. It is racist and hateful. It incites violence and fear against religious and ethnic communities who are portrayed as ‘cockroaches’, ‘primitive monkeys’ and as ‘invaders’.
After the horrific incident in Christchurch, many western politicians offered sympathies to the victims and their families. Yet many of them had contributed to the anti-Muslim narrative that has been bubbling since perhaps the September 11 attacks in 2001. Every time I looked at those statements today, they made me feel sick because I know that soon Christchurch will be forgotten like the Quebec City and Finsbury Park mosque attacks have been forgotten. Regular programming will resume with most politicians reverting to their now-mainstream anti-Muslim narratives.
So step one for our Muslim community and our non-Muslim allies, is to never forget. Remember those who laid down their lives yesterday in the service of their deen. Remember Brother Mohammad Atta Alayan who built the Al-Noor Mosque (one of the mosques attacked) with his own efforts to have a community space for New Zealand’s Muslims. Remember Sister Hosan Ara Parvin who saved her wheelchair-bound husband by jumping between him and the attacker. Remember Brother Naeem Rashid who heroically charged the attacker as people around him were slain. Remember all 51 Muslims (and counting) that left us in Christchurch.
Remember them when politicians push policies and make statements that are racist, Islamophobic, and violent. Raise your voice or pen or paintbrush against such hatefulness and the devastation it can cause.
As believers, we must be certain that these Muslims passed away in the best of states, i.e. during Salah. It is narrated in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet Muhammad said,
“Every servant will be resurrected upon that which they died upon.”
What could be better than being raised to meet Allah SWT than in prostration to Him?
Remember them, for they are alive;
‘And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.’ (Surah Baqarah, 2:154)
Step two is to acknowledge that we need to come together as Muslims and as humans.
Sheikh Omar Suleiman writing for CNN about Christchurch said that in the aftermath of attacks on places of communal worship like mosques and synagogues, it is more than important to stand united with each other and support one another against oppression, hatred and violence. It does us no good to stand divided amongst ourselves as Muslims or as humans in relation to other faiths against something as heinous as these attacks.
Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:
‘And hold fast all together by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you) and be not divided among yourselves and remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you’ (Surah Ale-Imran, 3:103).
One of my favourite verses from the Quran is in Surah An-Nisa:
‘And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah and for those who are weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord, rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors and raise for us from You who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help’ (Surah An-Nisa, 4:75)
Stay united. Stay together. We need to be vigilant for our own communities as well as those of other religions and ethnicities. We need to fight bigotry and violence with resilience and perseverance. Because giving up is not an option. Not now, not ever.
And I do not just mean this horrific incident. I mean stand united against every incident of oppression and hate in this world. Bigotry can never be justified whether its coming from within or outside our communities.
Finally, step 3 is to heal.
After a heart-breaking, soul-shattering incident like this, what does one do to heal?
Turn firmly towards Allah (SWT).
Sheikh Abu Eesa wrote an excellent piece about this, imbibing me with hope in this aftermath of hate and violence. He writes:
‘So as they push us back, we go forth. As they try to scare us, we return stronger. As they try to empty our Mosques, we will fill them again. Twice as much. Because there is *no* more safer and more blessed place in such times than to return back to Allah in every way possible.’
‘Indeed, as the Prophet (s) said, “There is no refuge nor safe-haven from You, except to You.”
Indeed, to Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return.