Dr Hamimah Tuyan is the widow of Zekeriya Tuyan, the 51st victim of the Christchurch mosque attacks. This is her address that was to be given at the remembrance service in Christchurch on Sunday 15 March 2020 marking the first anniversary of the attack that had to be cancelled because of Covid-19 pandemic.
Kia ora. Peace be upon you. Assalamu alaikum.
Last March the world witnessed a phenomenal show of your solidarity. You defied stigma and chose to wear scarves on your heads. You put aside your precious personal time to shower us with your gifts, your letters of encouragement, your beautiful flowers. You stood hand in hand outside our masjid so that we could pray. You graced us with your most heartfelt songs and haka. You planted trees, ran miles, uplifted families out of poverty in honour of our fallen heroes. You drove, you flew here to console us, to pray with us and for us. We have received support from as far away as Gaza, California and Uzbekistan, and we are grateful.
To my brothers and sisters in Islam, our Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us how to handle trials and tribulations. He said, “The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind becomes quiet, the plant becomes straight again.”
We have been blown around, knocked off our bearings by the storm of hatred, and bigotry. But, as believers, we will resolve to stay grounded in resilience and to stand tall in dignity. Allah is with those who patiently persevere. May Allah Take us out of this plight and bring after it something better. Aamiin.
We have a critical role to play. Many out there will not study Islam to know more about us, but they will study you and I – our manners, our words. So step back, grieve and also find healing in participating proactively in public conversations and activities so that there is better awareness and understanding of who we Muslims are, who we are not, and what actually happens in our community. We will continue to feed the homeless, give to charity, support the needy and put into action the message of kindness, justice, peace and love in Islam.
To my young brothers and sisters, wear your hijab and your beard with pride. We are not compelled to cover in the name of faith and we should not be compelled to take it off in the name of assimilation. Lift your heads and be honored ambassadors of Islam, and show that that fear will not extinguish faith, and that your identity does not make you less of a Kiwi.
To my non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity, many of you have enquired about how we are doing. My question for you today is how are you doing? What have you learnt from the important lessons of March 15? How has it changed your perception of “they” in relation to “us”? In this age of technology we have no excuse to be ignorant about each other. Hatred is the oxygen that extremists need to build fire from the sparks of fear and ignorance. We need to douse these sparks with knowledge. So please allow me to share some important truths.
Muslims have been here in Aotearoa New Zealand for decades and we have always made up about 1% of the population. We are not trying to take over this country or replace you. We are not “Muslim fanatics”. We are not “dole bludgers”. The fallen heroes and injured of March 15 were hardworking professionals who came here not to take away jobs meant for you, but only what you have to offer. They came here to achieve success for themselves and their children, so that their children will in turn be contributing members of this society.
We can call on governments and media companies to control expressions of hate and racism. But we must realize the importance of being proactive in countering the hatred, and misguided appeal of anti-immigration rhetoric. We need to do more than show up. Together, we need to speak up and challenge hate speech – no matter who spouts it, or who it’s directed towards. Until we truly and fervently believe that the atrocity of March 15 should be the last one needed to convince us that an extremist is not defined by his or her race, skin colour, facial hair, dress choice, philosophical persuasion and age, we will continue to fall prey to crooks who will take advantage of our fear and ignorance; those who spew hatred cloaked under the guise of freedom of speech and masked behind their faith or spirit of nationalism.
The goal of extremists is to undermine our shared values and social cohesion. I truly hope that we learn to embrace our differences and hold on to the common thread that binds us, for that would be the best legacy with which could honour my husband, Zekeriya Tuyan, and the rest of our beloveds including those injured.
Please allow me to end with a quote from our Prophet, peace be upon him. I am sure you would agree with me that people of all faiths and non-faiths can be united on this principle. He said, “Shall I show you something that if you did, you would love each other? Spread peace between yourselves.”
And with that, kia tau te rangimarie. Peace be upon you. Assalamu alaikum.