‘It could have been any of us’

In the wake of the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch last Friday which claimed the lives of 50 people, the Times has spoken to many people including Nabi Mussa. He says the shooting is weighing heavily on the hearts of the entire Muslim community as they realise how easily it could have been them.

Nabi Mussa stands outside the Islamic Ahlulbayt Foundation of New Zealand mosque in Pakuranga. He says he and his family are blown away by the kindness shown by fellow New Zealanders.

“It could have been any one of us,” says 24-year-old Nabi Mussa.

Two weeks ago, Nabi sat across the table from a man who was one of the victims the Christchurch terror attacks.

“I was meeting a good friend for dinner and my friend brought him with him. We chatted and laughed.

“Over the weekend I saw the same guy on the news. He had survived two gunshot wounds.

“My friend told me he had gone down to Christchurch for the weekend. He happened to be praying for that one hour and in that hour his life changed.

“It made me realise it could have been any one of us.”

Nabi says the events that have shaken the nation have weighed heavily on his heart.

“The first couple of days were a shock. I heard the news at work but it wasn’t until I got home that I fully understood what had happened. My family cried together, we cried a lot. We have been praying ever since.”

His voice shakes as he speaks.

Nabi and his family have been going to the mosque on Ben Lomond Crescent for 15 years.

“My mother wanted to go out shopping on Saturday and my father stopped her.

“He said ‘it’s not safe for us’. And I keep thinking about that.

“I’ve grown up in Auckland and I did all my schooling here.  I’ve had friends who have supported me through everything in life. I’ve never felt racism. I call Auckland my home.

“But I’ve been reminded that fear is very real in our community because racism is very real.”

He says the attack has affected his mum the most.

“The Muslim community is very isolated. Whereas I meet all kinds of people at work and through my studies…my mum meets her friends at the mosque.

“When she goes there she feels at home and she feels at peace. And the security of that has been shattered.

“Yes, the fear might fade but I don’t think it will ever be the same for her.”

Nabi went to the mosque earlier in the week and says the reality of how much destruction one person can cause has really hit home.

“Our mosques have no locked gates, no security. We welcome everyone. It’s one of the reasons why I am proud to be Muslim. Perhaps these things will change.

“I went to our mosque [on Sunday] and everything was closed but it hit me, how many people are sometimes in our mosques at one time.

“We hold a lot of gatherings especially around Ramadan and things like that and I realised what could happen if someone opened fire at one of these festivities; perhaps while people were walking out of the mosque. How much more bloodshed there would have been, how many more lives lost.

Nabi says people at work have asked him if he thinks there will be retaliation from the Muslim community.

“What I say to them is that forgiveness is at the core of the Muslim faith. Even in the most harrowing of times, we are taught to forgive and I think this will carry a lot of people through this tragedy.”

He says the attack has shown him why he is proud to call New Zealand home.

“Everyone has come together to support the Muslim community. Our sense of safety has been shaken and our hearts broken but the support has been inspiring.

“I spoke with a woman who had come to our mosque to pay her respects. She was a Christian and she was in the middle of doing a big assignment when she looked up where the mosque was in our area.

“She brought flowers and she wanted to know how my family and I were doing.

“I told her about my mum and she took her flower out of the fence. She said, ‘here, please take this home to your mum. Let her know she is in my prayers.

“It was the most touching thing I think I have ever experienced.”

And he says out of anywhere in the world he feels grateful to be here, in New Zealand, where everybody “stands as one”.