Saturday, March 16th, 2019

‘What’s next?’: Christchurch Muslims struggle with shock, fear

Published 10:40 pm | March 16, 2019

A few months ago, Christchurch’s Linwood Mosque proudly laid down new carpets in its halls. On Friday, the light brown carpets were stained red after a gunman stormed the building, spraying bullets at worshippers.

“There was blood everywhere. Everything was out of control,” Ibrahim AbdelHalim, imam of Linwood Mosque, told AFP. Like the wider Muslim community in Christchurch, Egypt-born AbdelHalim is struggling to come to terms with the violence wrought upon worshippers this week as he waits to bury the dead.

Working together with the local Islamic community, AbdelHalim had sought
to refresh the mosque after a trust bought it over in early 2018.

Some of the seven worshippers who died at Linwood were among the most
enthusiastic contributors, donating their personal time to help in
fundraising efforts.

One woman, a local Kiwi, fell down beside his wife when she was shot dead,
AbdelHalim said. His wife, Falwa El-Shazly, was shot in the arm but survived
the attack.

Another man, a Fijian-Indian New Zealander who would regularly bring boxes
of food from his restaurant during mosque donation drives, was also killed.

“They are dear to me, these are people who offer to us work for free,”
AbdelHalim said.

“It was a very bad day, not just all of us, all of New Zealand.”

At Hedley College, the main meeting centre for the survivors and victims’
families, local Muslims from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds shared
wordless hugs and fought back tears as they exchanged news about their loved

With Muslims making up just one percent of New Zealand’s population, some
members of the close-knit community raced to the mosques when they heard
about the shootings.

“I did not go to the prayer yesterday due to work… but received a call
from my friends and rushed to the spot,” Mohammad Kamruzzaman, originally
from Bangladesh, told AFP.

“Five of (our Bangladeshi friends) are still missing, only Allah knows
where they are. We have lost… a guardian lady for our community, who taught
children the Koran for free. It feels like we have lost a parent.”

– ‘We are not immune’ –

Fiji-born Azan Ali, 43, who was in the Linwood Mosque with his Auckland-
based father when the attack occurred, trembled when he thought back to crack
of the gun shots on Friday.

“Will I see my parents, my kids, my loved ones again or not? All the
people you pray with, you see beside you…” he added, his voice trailing

“My kids are scared, you know. You just have to work through it as a

His father, Sheik Aeshad, who saw a worshipper shot in the neck, said he
could not understand how such violence could take part in New Zealand, a
small nation better known for its rolling, green hills and snow-capped

“We never thought in New Zealand, this could happen. New Zealand’s so
friendly a place, you can leave your door open and go. But not now,” he

“I’m thinking what’s going to happen the next time… it could be more
people targeting somewhere else.”

It was a sentiment shared by Sahra Ahmed, a New Zealander of Somali origin
and a nurse active in her local community.

Sahra said the attacks showed the South Pacific island nation could not
escape the global wave of right-wing extremism.

“This is a global movement, for better or worst, it’s happened in all parts of the world. And some people like to import ideas from everyone else. So we’re not immune from what’s happening,” she told AFP. “It doesn’t matter where you go, the world is very small.”


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