Responding to New Zealand: Thoughts from a fellow Muslim

I was sitting in my car last Friday scrolling through my Twitter feed as I waited for jummah namaz. My classes end at noon on Fridays, so I usually get lunch and follow it up with some Dunkin’ Donuts as I wait for the masjid to open at one.

It was a gorgeous day. The sun was bright and there were birds chirping for the first time in months in the Pennsylvania winter blear. I was in a good mood. That’s when I saw a tweet saying, “I’m praying for New Zealand.” Immediately I looked up New Zealand: “49 Dead in New Zealand Mosque Shooting.”

As a Muslim girl who was waiting alone in my car for the masjid doors to be opened by the imam, my whole body drained. I felt a cold sense of anger settle in my gut.

I felt hot waves of fear flash through my body. Forty-nine dead. My fingers became frantic as I tried to piece together what had happened.

The terrorist, not the shooter but the terrorist, had massacred 41 people, and killed another seven people at another masjid down the road. Two more died in the hospital later. At least 40 more are injured.

New Zealand is historically very nonviolent. In fact, if someone so much as pickpockets in New Zealand, it becomes a headline.

At this point, I started feeling an immense amount of fear and nausea. If this could happen in New Zealand, of all places, what stops it from happening here in America?

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, “467,321 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011. That number has been steadily increasing since 1999.”

He live-streamed footage of him entering one of the largest and oldest masjids of New Zealand using a GoPro. The video is grotesque. He wanted it to be spread. “If you see a video with a red/green carpet or a white building or a gun as the thumbnail DO NOT WATCH IT. Report it and move on,” said one Twitter user (@glossyhs).

The khutba at my masjid that jummah was about the incident. There was a significant decrease in people that had attended. “Love thy neighbor,” the Bible says.

We began to doubt the neighborhood our masjid was nestled in. Not a single one of us felt safe. We felt violated. The very being of our faith was under fire. Quite literally. Our identity would be erased due to fear.

What if someone had decided that we were too rowdy? Who would protect us if someone decided to do the same here? After all, my masjid is also called Masjid al-Noor.

Dr. Sh. Yasir Qadhi, the Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute in Houston, Texas talks about the effect the terrorist attack has had on the Muslim community.

He explains the attack and details the manifesto that the terrorist had posted online prior to executing the attack. Qadhi refused to refer to the terrorist by name to avoid humanizing him.

“He is a self-proclaimed white-supremacist. The terrorist’s agenda, however, was not new. We have been hearing this language, we have been exposed to this rhetoric for many many years. He blames mass immigration and Muslim fertility rates for the takeover of European ‘Western culture’.”

The man chose that masjid specifically because it used to be a church. He felt that this was a symbol of Islamic takeover. The irony lies in the fact that man was not a church-goer.

However his ideas are not surprising. A false narrative is perpetuated by the media. No political leaders seem to refute this kind of talk. The fact is that Muslims are portrayed as terrorists.

Another fact is that only 6% of the recorded terrorist attacks by the UN are actually Muslims. The far right is responsible for almost 100 percent of the terrorist attacks in the past year and a half. However, no other terrorists’ religion ever seems to be a factor.

Islamophobia has become popular. At some level, I feel bad for the terrorist. He was simply brainwashed.

He believes that Muslims are violent and hatred filled. There is no threat to “Western civilization.” The media has made a false monster which allows for the rise of real monsters.

The entire concept of the famous book “Lord of the Flies” revolves around this subject. What we do from here forward is what matters.

If we start to unite and spread love and condone this behavior then we might be able to find peace at last. After all, Islam means “peace.”