This past Friday, a savage attack ripped through the Christchurch, New Zealand community as a gunman rained fire on the Linwood and Al Noor Mosques during Friday prayers (commonly known as Jummah prayers in Muslim communities) that left 41 dead and 48 people, including young children, injured. The attack sparked a collective ripple of international outrage, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemning the incident as "an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence" and the UN security council calling it "heinous, cowardly" and unjustifiable.
The motivation for the attack was detailed in an online 74-page manifesto rife with hatred against immigrants, symbols of white supremacist ideology, and a call to arms against Muslims worldwide in retaliation for what he claims is the "decaying" culture of the white, European, Western world.
As a Muslim American who has lived nearly his entire life under the shadow of Islamophobia and xenophobic slander, I'm no stranger to the racism and far-right vitriol that this psychopath embodies.
I've learned to watch, with almost a detached acceptance, as our communities and our religious faith was derailed and dehumanized by hordes of white supremacists. Muslims all over the world have experienced these sentiments of hatred by those who feel that their very existence in their host nation is a credible threat — as if we were somehow the enemy, as if all Muslims (who consist of a plethora of diverse backgrounds) were nothing less than "targets" who should be marginalized for the sake of restoring the status quo of days gone by.
As shocking as this attack is, the motivations behind it are not new to me — it is a buildup of the symptoms of the rising tide of far-right extremism experienced across the world. The most shocking thing to me about this attack was that it happened at a Mosque during our Friday prayers.
Our mosques are our houses of worship, similar to Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, and our weekly sermons occur on Friday afternoons. It is a time for our communities to gather not just in prayer, but also in solidarity. We congregate and ask about our lives, and we spend time together as brothers and sisters in faith and in humanity in our mosques. Traditional marriages are held in our mosques, as are celebrations and the passings of our community members.
A mosque is not simply a place for us to pray — it is the bedrock of our community, the foundation by which we share ties as a people.
An attack on our mosques is an attack on our home, the very symbol of our faith, and our values of love and respect for humankind that our religion espouses. The slaughter of so many innocent men, women, and children in a house of worship is a savage crime without basis or justification. Terrorism has no religion.
To the people of Christchurch — my heart goes out to you all, and my prayers are with you always. I stand with you all against racism and bigotry. Hatred cannot and will not win as long as Love is there to drive it out.
To my friends and family — thank you for being there for me and my community during our hard times and our happy ones. Your love is cherished so much more than you will ever know, and we are blessed to have you in our lives. May the love you show us be reciprocated to you 100 times over.
As-Salaam-Alaikum. Peace be upon you.