I would firstly like to send my love to the victims and affected families and friends of the Christchurch terror attack on Friday 15 March. We must work to stop violence toward Muslim communities and other minorities that face similar threats in New Zealand. It’s critical that we listen to these communities.
Groups like The Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand have been working to fight discrimination for years. They have a right to be listened to. Going forward, we must realise that every little comment, or slur, or derogatory look is contributing to and helping to feed a racist culture in New Zealand. This can’t continue.
In the aftermath of the attack, I spoke to Mohamed Soliman from the Muslim Students Association at AUT. I was immediately struck by how calm and serene he was in the face of such adversity. Mohamed told me that whatever happens, he and his community do what their religion tells them: “to be peaceful to everyone and to do whatever you can to support the people.”
It was a privilege for me that Mohamed let me speak with him so soon after such an unthinkable tragedy. I asked him whether AUT has been doing enough to help and he told me the MSA feels the university is “doing a good job giving us support.”
He said the community support in Christchurch has been strong too. “Over there they are overwhelmed by all the support from all the community. Muslims and non-Muslims are helping people there with food and also emotional help.”
I asked Samirah Ali, also from the MSA, what the AUT community can do to help.
“In the coming weeks what people can do is just make us feel a little welcome and more at home. If you’re walking past you can say ‘are you ok’. Usually you wouldn’t get that. If you can support us in anything we’re doing that would be great. Even when we’re walking around if you could exchange a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ just to make us feel safe on campus. Maybe even exchanging a smile would be enough.”
Samirah said as it’s a hard time for the Muslim community, some individuals will appreciate being more included in class and may prefer to work in groups.
At 12:28 on Monday I left my office to observe the planned 12:30 minute of silence. As the time ticked down, I watched a group of guys loudly playing basketball and I was convinced they would continue throughout the course of the silence. But they didn’t. Suddenly everything stopped and the plaza went quiet.
This issue is all about existence. As you flip through the pages, I encourage you to reflect on whether you’re doing enough to support the existence of those around you.
reflect on whether you’re doing enough to support the existence of those around you.