They Were Massacred; They Were Martyred in Christchurch, New Zealand
As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings Of Allah (God) Be Upon You
Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 156)
Flowers and kind words left in Christchurch, New Zealand after mass shootings at two mosques.
They left home to attend Jumu'ah, the congregational prayer at the local mosque as Muslims all over the world do each Friday. The prayer is obligatory for adult males and voluntary for women and children. When possible, families attend together. After the Jumu'ah prayer that replaces the Zuhr (Noon) prayer only on Friday, there is time between it and the 'Asr (afternoon) prayer that allows some time to greet, meet and socialize. Friday is the best day of the week for a variety of reasons that include attending Jumu'ah and seeing people you love and care about, like family, at the mosque. Sometimes sweets are shared or there is a meal to eat while watching children play with each other to have some fun. The mosque or masjid, as it is also known, is a place for congregational prayer and also for the day-to-day activities of community life. However, Friday is special.
On Friday, March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand 50 Muslims: innocent Muslim men, women and children were brutally taken from this worldly life as the result of gunfire from someone who wanted to demonstrably emphasize his belief in white nationalism. The killer, influenced by a white supremacist ideology selected the Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand for his savagery. More than 50 were also injured between the two mosques. It had been 1:40 PM in Christchurch during or after the Jumu'ah prayer at the Noor mosque when the 28 year old assailant, Brenton Tarrant walked from his vehicle to the entrance of the mosque carrying a military style weapon and wearing a camera on his head to live-stream the announced massacre that had also been proceeded by the release of an 87 page manifesto. In New York City, it was Thursday evening, 8:40 PM when many may have been at home having either completed the 'Isha (Night) prayer or would do so before going to sleep for the night. The 'Isha prayer is the last said by Muslims of the five (5) daily prayers enjoined upon Muslim men and women. Praying is the second pillar of the religion following Iman (belief), it's first pillar. It is believed that saying these 5 prayers everyday helps a Believer to refrain from committing sinful acts in between them. How? By being conscious of one's behavior and remembering Allah (God) while waiting for the next time of prayer to arrive. We can only live our own experiences in our own lives, locations and time.
Many had not heard about the mass shooting when they arrived home from work or school. This writer watched late evening news until almost 11 PM and there was no "BREAKING NEWS" about it. Being at peace and grateful for an uneventful day, I went to sleep shortly afterwards. In our Eastern (Daylight) Savings Time zone, several hours later on what would be Jumu'ah i.e., Friday in the Western Hemisphere we heard about it and some had already viewed via the Internet, the horror of a massacre that had happened almost a day earlier. By then, the Facebook live-streamed murders that had not been caught by the Facebook live-streaming staff that monitor Facebook content had been viewed by a significant audience. Copies of the murderous campaign of this lone white supremacist zealot had been downloaded and likely shared.
Why are attacks against Muslims not BREAKING NEWS? Why is there a delay in reporting the pictures and the names of white suspects who are caught committing heinous crimes? Does it depend on the network? Why was only the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, referring to the mass shooting as a "terrorist attack?" It was a terrorist attack! White men, however are treated differently and often are not referred to as "terrorist", when they are the perpetrators of mass shootings or worst as in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 in which 168 American innocent man, women and children were killed.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visits a refugee center in New Zealand.
There are approximately 7.6 billion people on the Earth. If they all heard about these 50 murders that occurred in the span of less than 17 minutes (one person died at the hospital) by a admitted white nationalist, most of them-- no matter what nationality, faith, age or gender one might be, would feel wounded by the painful news that life can be taken so violently. In countries all around the world, upon hearing of the massacre of Muslims in a mosque, people were in pain. Muslims are about 1.6 billion people in the world and the second highest in number within a religion in terms of numbers of adherents. When 11 Jewish members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were slain as they attended services one Saturday in October, everyone-- with the exception of perhaps, white nationalists, were in pain. People came together to pray and mourn the senseless murders in a house of worship during a time in which they were attending services. Afterwards, Muslims raised more than $200,000 to help the family and community effected by the crime. Muslims were also afterwards falsely accused of not actually donating the money in efforts to diminish the solidarity that was genuine at the time. Presently, Time reports, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is responding in kind by raising funds to support the Muslim community in New Zealand affected by the massacre.
Muslims are found in every country in the world. Islam, which means "peace" is the religion. Muslims, those who submit their will to God, practice the religion. Muslims are peaceful people. Muslims move around and are located all over the world because people have freedom to choose what they believe. And, where to live, when possible. From another perspective, Muslims also view "the whole world as a masjid," i.e., the Earth is a place of worship. Were Muslims to be banned from traveling freely, as we have experienced a "Muslim Ban" in the US in addition to all of the harsh and vitriolic rhetoric from Trump that feeds hateful acts and has emboldened some white nationalist (supremacists), commerce, as one example, would be greatly effected. Who would believe that Trump would follow his remarks about how "terrible" the mass shooting in New Zealand was with comments a few sentences later about "invaders" entering the US at the Southern border? Hadn't Trump claimed prior to the mid-term election that people from the Middle East were in the "caravans" of immigrants entering the US from Mexico? Was there a picture of a prayer rug found in the desert shown in news reports as proof of his claim? Deliberately used accusations and xenophobic words were used by Trump on Friday as justification for his vetoing a congressional resolution that dismissed his claim of a national emergency at the border. A strategy, no doubt to still get a wall (Trump is obsessed with), built between the US and Mexico. Yet, we know it is a campaign promise to Americans likely being radicalized by Trump's speeches. In the manifesto, Tarrant, a terrorist, posted to the Internet nine minutes before he killed 50 innocent Muslims, referred to Trump as a "symbol of renewed white supremacy and common purpose." Was Tarrant emboldened by Trump's negative words against Muslims for the last two years since he assumed the role of POTUS? Tarrant presumably lives in Australia. He traveled to New Zealand to commit this heinous act. He wasn't on any "watch list." He moved about freely in a variety of countries including Bulgaria, Turkey, Pakistan and more. Was he researching his mission? Did he act alone?
There is little doubt, though Trump thinks that white nationalist are "perhaps, a small group of seriously troubled people," and whether the answer to the last two questions are yes or no, white nationalism is on the rise globally. Trump concluded his comments by stating he "didn't know much about it," referring to New Zealand. Let us not forget that Trump said the same thing about not knowing David Duke of the Klu Klux Klan or nothing about the Klan. Fred Trump was arrested at a Klu Klux Klan march in Queens in 1927. Trump also stated that he does not regard white nationalism as a growing global threat. He "guessed." Is it possible that the US has a President whose Father was a member of the Klu Klux Klan or held the same values as the KKK? Would Fred Trump not have, perhaps, influenced his son to have similar ideas about people of color? He could have. Trump had an issue with where Obama was born accusing him of having been born in Kenya (Africa). Then he didn't; then he did again as President. Trump referred to himself as a "nationalist," in October of last year before the 2018 elections.
"Words matter; policies matter" stated Nihad Awad of the Council of American and Islamic Relations (CAIR) at a press conference on Friday. Awad pointedly added, speaking of Trump, "During your presidency and during your election campaign, Islamophobia took a sharp rise and attacks on innocent Muslims, innocent immigrants and mosques have skyrocketed." This is true. Further, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) states that anti-immigrant hate groups are the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups that have proliferated since the late 1990s, when anti-immigration xenophobia began to rise to levels not seen in the United States since the 1920s. Trump's attack filled speeches and tweets regarding immigrants have also heightened and riled white nationalists. Interestingly, when the US Congress recently interviewed Wilbur Ross who has raised concerns about including a citizenship question in the 2020 census, the web page of the US Census Bureau now provides an interactive data point that is counting the number of international migrants entering the US every 34 seconds? Is Ross, US Secretary of Commerce, just as closely tied to anti-immigrant speech but is pushing the agenda to involve the courts in Trump's and perhaps the GOP parties interest regarding immigration? It is expected that the 'add the citizenship' question to the US Census issue will end up at the Supreme Court that is now, some feel, a Trump Court with the additions of Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, Trump appointees. How is such innuendo related to "immigrant" people allowed on the US Census website and for what purpose? Given the context of US citizens, presumed, lives and deaths being counted by seconds as data points, how could it be known by the government how many and how often an "international immigrant" arrives in the US as if on a ticker tape? This is how propaganda can become embedded institutionally and accepted as true when it may be nothing of the sort. The SPLC might want to query how such a erroneous counter can occur on a State Department website.
On Friday, a significant number of people around the world were deeply impacted by the New Zealand Mosque shootings tragedy. Waleed Aly an Australian reporter for The Project as well as an academic, writer and musician, included his personal sentiments during a broadcasted commentary. He admitted, sadly, that he was "not shocked" to hear of the mass shooting in Christchurch. Nor had he been shocked by the Tree of Life shooting or the murders in the AME Church in Charleston a couple of years ago. In Aly's comments, he conveyed how, as a Muslim he attends Jumu'ah and it is something that he is going to continue to do notwithstanding what had happened in New Zealand. He referred to the murders as "slaughter by appointment," because Jumu'ah is where Muslims are on Friday. Rep. Ilhan Omar provided messaging that while it had been asked that Muslims not go to Jumu'ah (in some other places), she was going and hoped that others would, too. She stated "we must not live in fear." Staying away, some conveyed was doing what the killer wanted to accomplish.
Muslims know that nothing happens without the permission of Allah (swt). Muslims know that we will all taste death; we don't know where or how but we each have an appointed time for such. Muslims know that there will be tests in this life. Muslims know that there have been Muslims who have died in the cause of Islam. They are called Martyrs. They are called martyrs because they are living the lives of Muslims when their deaths occurred at the hand(s) of others or while they were defending the religion or engaged in an act of worship. They don't necessarily die on the battlefield as they did during the battles between Muslims during the time of Prophet Muhammad (saws, peace and blessing be upon him). They are not necessarily killed in obvious immediate conflict as was Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz whose efforts to be a Muslim, unapologetically, in this nation at a time when people of color were being shot and lynched by white men, and not just in the South, was common enough. Sumayyah bint Khayyat, an African (Ethiopian) woman, who is stated to have been a slave, was the first to be martyred as a Muslim. Among the earliest who converted to Islam, along with her husband Yasir, she was killed by a Meccan leader when she would not renounce Islam, as was her husband also killed. They were killed because they were Muslims and Islam was their religion. Their son, Ammar later became a companion of the Prophet (saws: peace be upon him).
There are some Muslims who will feel some trepidation to go or to not go to Jumu'ah as a result of the mass shooting in New Zealand. In the US, mass shootings have become almost common place and have been normalized to some extent. That does not make them acceptable or normal. It's MURDER, no many how times a mass shooting occurs. There are now more guns in the hands of a potential "small group" of people than there are people in the US. It is apparent, now, that masajid in the US and in other nations need and would benefit from protection on the inside and outside. One Muslim man attending Jumu'ah at the Linwood Mosque named Abdul Aziz stopped the perpetrator-terrorist (Tarrant) before he could kill more people. Abdul Aziz stated that he did not feel fear or anything when confronting the gunman with nothing but a credit card machine to protect himself. Seven (7) people were killed (martyred) while Aziz's four sons and others were waiting inside. May Allah (swt) reward him for his bravery and lack of fear. His quick action made a difference, al-hamdulillah (All Praise Be to Allah).
Since Friday, there have been flowers placed in memory of those killed all over Christchurch, New Zealand, a place that many Muslims traveled to from other native homelands to live because of its relative tolerance and freedom to practice Islam, and for its beauty. A botanical garden exist in the city and Muslims living there referred to Christchurch as the "Garden City." Gardens and fragrance are renown throughout cities and small enclaves in predominantly Muslim countries all over the world. In Jannah, or Paradise as it is more broadly referred to, there "will be rivers and gardens." Muslims love gardens. Muslims love prayer. Muslims love charity. Muslims are one community. Not separate from other communities; within the community of Mankind that includes other faith traditions and people who strive to live righteously respecting others. Yes, there are differences in some aspects of faith, however between the three Abrahamic faiths, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, there are many similarities and parallels. This is a time for solidarity against hate and violence because of one's religion, race or nationality. We pray to Allah (swt) that with this test, will come an Opening. As stated in the Holy Qur'an, “So, verily, with every difficulty, there is Relief” (Surah Al-Inshirah, 94:5)
Insha'Allah (God Willing), the families of those martyred, who are experiencing profound sadness with many others at this time, will be cared for by all within a very big community. This was terrorism. It was murder, the worst crime within humanity. Those slain were innocent. They were killed because they were Muslim. They are Martyrs because they did not renounce their religion-- they were practicing it by attending Jumu'ah. Muslims will continue to attend Jumu'ah. We ask that Allah (swt) forgive the sins and grant Jannah to each one of them. Muslims will continue to say prayers for them, ourselves and for all whom these acts of terror and horror effect. We ask for the Mercy and Protection of Allah (swt) for all within the Islamic community to not fear the negative behavior and ignorance of others. That we be and remain unapologetically Muslim with the best behavior which is to be kind and give glad tidings to those in our midst. Even a smile is charity. However, Muslims will "Trust in Allah (swt) and tie their camel, first." We will pray while some watch and then pray. And, we will believe as we have been provided guidance in the Holy Qur'an of the following:
And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: "They are dead." Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.
Surah Al-Baqarah (2, 153)
Allah (swt) is always with us! May He (swt) continue to reward us for our good endeavors.
Please join us to follow updates about current issues and events concerning housing, education, social justice and economic empowerment on the SEQMC Facebook page.