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Column: Christchurch slayings reverberate among Orange County Muslims

Column: Christchurch slayings reverberate among Orange County Muslims
Flowers and tributes are laid outside Al Noor mosque, on March 22 in Christchurch, New Zealand, to honor the 50 people killed and dozens injured in the worst mass shooting in that nation’s history. (Photo by Carl Court / Getty Images)

“Hello, brother.”

These words greeted the white supremacist as he walked into the first of two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand on March 15 and fired semiautomatic weapons, killing 50 people in their houses of worship and on their holiest day of the week.

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My first reaction when I read two mosques were attacked was fear and anxiety for my mother, who goes to Friday prayers here in Orange County, followed by contemplation about whether I should ask her to stay away from her mosque.

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Attacks on houses of worship are especially vicious. They bring chaos and bloodshed to otherwise safe, centering spaces. They are designed to deter people from practicing their religion.

The idea of encouraging my mother to stay away from the mosque is in direct contradiction to my principles. Yet this is how I felt. The thought of such an attack happening while my mother is at the mosque shakes my existence.

“Hello, brother.”

These were Daoud Nabi’s last words before the terrorist shot him dead. Though New Zealand is a faraway place, this hits close to home for me — and Muslims throughout Orange County, residents in a country where the president — and I am sad to say this — has essentially denounced those who practice the faith while simultaneously downplaying the threat of white supremacists.

There have been many solidarity rallies, vigils and efforts in O.C., including one at the Islamic Society of Orange County in Anaheim on March 15 and another on March 21 at New Horizon Upper School in Irvine, where Asmi Hussain, who lost two family members (Naeem and Talha Rashid) in the shootings, spoke.

Relatives in Pakistan look the pictures of Rashid Naeem and his son Talha Naeem, who were killed in the Christchurch mosque shooting. Another family member Asmi Hussain spoke at a solidary rally and vigil for the Muslim community at the New Horizon Upper School in Irvine.
Relatives in Pakistan look the pictures of Rashid Naeem and his son Talha Naeem, who were killed in the Christchurch mosque shooting. Another family member Asmi Hussain spoke at a solidary rally and vigil for the Muslim community at the New Horizon Upper School in Irvine. (Photo by Aqeel Ahmed/AP)

What is especially disheartening is that so many Muslims who emigrate do it because they are not safe in their own home countries or because their homes have been stolen from them.

Those who were killed in New Zealand were mostly immigrants and refugees seeking safe harbor.

Nabi, an Afghani, had reportedly lived in New Zealand for more than 40 years, calling it a slice of paradise.

He called everyone “brother,” even the man about to end his life.

Mona Shadia is a contributor to TimesOC. Follow her on Twitter at @monashadia and follow @timesocofficial for more news and features about Orange County.

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