KUALA LUMPUR,. While New Zealand remains on high alert for more terror strikes, a number of Muslim Malaysians living in the land of the long white cloud have been heartened by the show of solidarity and support from Kiwis in the aftermath of the mosque killings.
Shazly Khan, a Malaysian motivational speaker living in Hamilton, a town nearly 1,000km from Christchurch where 49 people were killed and 48 more injured after at least one gunman went on a rampage, believes the New Zealand government is doing its best to ensure the nightmare attacks against Muslims will not happen again.
“The government and the police, in particular, have been outstanding so far. We have all faith and trust in the police and the government of New Zealand and that they will solve this and they will bring the criminal to the book and punish them accordingly,” he told Malay Mail when contacted yesterday.
Shazly, who is also an imam at the Khadija Mosque, Rototuna Islamic Centre in Hamilton, spoke glowingly of New Zealanders who stepped up to offer comfort to the rattled Muslims in his town.
“They came non-stop to our mosque to express their apologies and offer welcoming words, that I have to admit, helped to sooth the situation.”
Shazly said he was terribly shocked and saddened when he first heard news of the shootings in the two Christchurch mosques, and the response by non-Muslims across New Zealand reaffirmed his faith in his fellow men.
“We know for a fact that this is not New Zealand. This is not how we were treated before and we have never been the subject of any discrimination whatsoever,” he said.
He shared with Malay Mail pictures he had taken of a small gathering of Muslims and non-believers yesterday and the bouquets of flowers that decorated the sidewalk of a makeshift memorial in Hamilton to honour the shooting victims.
On his Facebook page, he shared a video of an outdoor candlelight vigil with possibly hundreds of people gathered at a park at night after the attacks amid the strains of Walk in Love, a song by Christian American musician Brady Toops.
Shazly, who has been speaking out against responding in kind to hate speeches, urged Muslims to remember how well they have been treated by the New Zealanders, adding that the massacre was a shock to the locals too.
Fathiyyah Ismail, a 34-year old Malaysian woman based in Auckland, was thankful for the professionalism and commitment displayed by the authorities to rein in the terrorisation of the Muslim minority.
“Personally, I appreciate the level of commitment that has been put in by all authorities in a situation that is a first for New Zealand,” the consultant for the Auckland District Health Board told Malay Mail.
An Australian man identified as Brenton Tarrant has been charged with murder a day after the shooting and will be detained until April 15. The police have also arrested three others for hostilities, though no charges have been arraigned against them at the time of writing.
Fathiyya said she feels safe in her community, but acknowledged that it is still early to say otherwise.
“My circle of friends has been nothing but kind and supportive. I believe this extends to the greater New Zealand in general,” she said.
Another Muslim man living in Nelson, the closest city to Christchurch out of the Malaysians Malay Mail contacted, expressed his heartfelt thanks to the police and local community where he was a minority.
He said locals in Nelson organised a rally in solidarity with Muslims in the town, and that it was attended by many people, including the police.
“The police and community have provided amazing support. They have contacted community leaders and have put on extra patrols,” said the man who asked not to be named, hesitant to be identified after the shootings.
“Our friends have been supportive. We’ve been getting messages asking if we’re okay and messages to stay strong,” he added.
He shared with Malay Mail an email that announced Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese will be gathering outside the Christchurch Cathedral at noon today to pay tribute to the victims of the mosque shootings, their family and all Muslims.
According to the email, women can wear headscarves to show solidarity with the Muslims.
The man who had been looking forward to taking part in a Race Unity Day in town said the event scheduled for later today has been postponed a week to March 24 at the Victoria Square Park in Nelson.
The Malaysian expatriate also noted that at no point did anyone in New Zealand that he knew blame Muslims for the terror attacks, unlike Australian senator Fraser Anning who pinned blame on Muslim immigrants.
“The authorities have acted fairly and have sought to protect the Muslims in New Zealand,” the Malaysian man said.
But some Muslim Malaysians Malay Mail spoke with remained shellshocked after the attack and a target for terrorists, despite past hospitality shown by the Kiwis.
“The way the attack was targeted, it’s definitely targeted the migrants because on that fateful day the mosque was filled with Middle Easterns, Indians, Pakistanis and Somalis,” said a man who had been living in New Zealand for the past 20 years.
He said he previously felt the locals were nice and the country welcoming towards immigrants but was now afraid for his children.
A Malaysian woman, Amalina Jaafar, said she still feels like she is caught in a bad dream and fears for her immediate future, saying she is “shocked, shattered, heartbroken, sad and fear retaliation”.