Funerals held for father and son killed in New Zealand mosque attack after fleeing Syria

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Zaed Mustafa, the brother of Hamza and son of Khalid Mustafa who were killed in the Friday, March 15 mosque shootings, attends their funerals at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch on Wednesday. (AP)
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Zaed Mustafa, the brother of Hamza and son of Khalid Mustafa who were killed in the Friday, March 15 mosque shootings, attends their funerals at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch on Wednesday. (AP)
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Mourners carry the first coffin of the Christchurch mosques massacre victim at Memorial Park Cemetery during the funeral ceremony in Christchurch on March 20, 2019. ( AFP / Anthony Wallace)
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Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
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Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand,m om March 20, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
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Mourners carry the bodies of two victims from last week's mosque shooting for a burial at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
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Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 20, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Funerals held for father and son killed in New Zealand mosque attack after fleeing Syria

  • Funerals of Khalid Mustafa, 44, and Hamza Mustafa, 15, came five days after a white supremacist methodically gunned down 50 worshippers
  • Hamza’s younger brother, Zaed, 13, who was wounded in the attack, attended the ceremony in his wheelchair

CHRISTCHURCH: A father and son who fled the civil war in Syria for “the safest country in the world” were buried before hundreds of mourners Wednesday, the first funerals for victims of shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that horrified a nation known for being welcoming and diverse.
The funerals of Khalid Mustafa, 44, and Hamza Mustafa, 15, came five days after a white supremacist methodically gunned down 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch — a massacre that he broadcast live on Facebook.

Zaed Mustafa, the brother of Hamza and son of Khalid Mustafa who were killed in the Friday, March 15 mosque shootings, attends their funerals at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch on Wednesday. (AP)

Hamza’s high school principal described the student as compassionate and hardworking, and said he was an excellent horse rider who aspired to be a veterinarian.
Those present included Hamza’s younger brother, 13-year-old Zaed, who was wounded in an arm and a leg during the attack. The boy tried to stand during the ceremony but had to sit back in his wheelchair, one mourner said.
“We tried to not shake his hand, and not touch his hand or his foot, but he refused, he wanted to shake everybody’s hand, he wanted to show everyone that he appreciated them. And that’s amazing,” said Jamil El-Biza, who traveled from Australia to attend the funeral.
The Mustafas had moved to New Zealand last year, after spending six years as refugees in Jordan. Mustafa’s wife, Salwa, told Radio New Zealand that when the family asked about New Zealand they were told “it’s the safest country in the world, the most wonderful country you can go ... you will start a very wonderful life there.”
She added, “But it wasn’t.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the family should have been safe.

Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

“I cannot tell you how gutting it is to know that a family came here for safety and for refuge,” she said.
Families of those killed had been anxiously awaiting word on when they could bury their loved ones. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police have now formally identified and released the remains of 21 of those killed. Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible.
Four other burials were under way on Wednesday evening. Those victims include Junaid Ismail, Ashraf Ali and Lilik Abdul Hamid. The fourth victim’s name was suppressed by court order.
The burials began soon after Ardern renewed her call for people to speak of the victims rather than the man who killed them.
Also on Wednesday, a man accused of sharing video footage of Friday’s massacre was jailed by a judge until his next court appearance in mid-April. And Bush said he believes police officers stopped the gunman on his way to a third attack.
Ardern’s plea against giving the accused gunman notoriety followed his move to represent himself in court, raising concerns he would attempt to use the trial as a platform for airing his racist views.
During a visit Wednesday to the high school Hamza and another victim attended, Ardern revisited that thought and asked students not to say the attacker’s name or dwell on him.
“Look after one another, but also let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism,” she told students at Cashmere High School. “That’s something we can all do.”
Another Cashmere student, 14-year-old Sayyad Milne, also died in the attack.
About 30 people wounded in the attacks remained hospitalized as of Tuesday evening. Around 10 of them were in critical condition, including a 4-year-old girl.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man, has been charged with murder and is next scheduled to appear in court on April 5. Police have said they are certain Tarrant was the only gunman but are still investigating whether he had support from others.
Ardern previously has said reforms of New Zealand’s gun laws would be announced next week and she said an inquiry would be convened to look into the intelligence and security services’ failures to detect the risk from the attacker or his plans.
New Zealand’s international spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, confirmed it had not received any relevant information or intelligence before the shootings.
Philip Arps, 44, appeared in a Christchurch court Wednesday on two charges of distributing the killer’s livestream video of the attack on the Al Noor mosque, the first mosque that was attacked, a violation of the country’s objectionable publications law. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Arps, heavily tattooed and dressed in a T-shirt and sweatpants, hasn’t entered a plea. He remained expressionless during the hearing, his hands clasped behind his back.
Judge Stephen O’Driscoll denied him bail.
Charging documents accuse Arps of distributing the video on Saturday, one day after the massacre.
Most details of bail hearings are suppressed under New Zealand law. The judge made an additional suppression order regarding the police summary of facts in the case, limiting reporting of the accusations to the charges themselves.
Bush, the police commissioner, said they believe they know where the gunman was going for a third attack when officers rammed his car off the road but won’t say more because it’s an active investigation.
In a 74-page manifesto he released before the attack, Tarrant said he was going to attack two mosques in Christchurch and then one in the town of Ashburton if he made it that far.
Bush also revised his timeline, saying officers rammed the suspect’s car 21 minutes after the first emergency call, rather than 36 minutes. Bush said FBI agents have traveled to New Zealand to help with the investigation.
Abizar Valibhai, of Christchurch, said Wednesday’s burials marked an important moment.
“It’s not only for the Muslim community, but for the whole of New Zealand, and the world as well,” he said. “If we don’t show our support at this time, when are we going to show it?“
He said there would be many waves of emotions to come for the families of the victims.
“They are fathers, they are mothers, they are brothers, they are sisters, they are wives,” he said. “There are a lot of things that will be shattered.”

Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand,m om March 20, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

 


Sri Lanka's Muslims fearful of backlash after church attacks

Updated 11 min 34 sec ago
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Sri Lanka's Muslims fearful of backlash after church attacks

  • Intelligence officers ignored warnings, says Islamic body
  • There have been reports of attacks on Muslim homes and businesses

COLOMBO: The people of Dharga Town, Sri Lanka, are familiar with violence and loss. In 2014, anti-Muslim riots killed four, injured dozens and left behind a trail of torched homes and businesses.
Now, almost a week after deadly terror attacks devastated the tropical island, the Muslims in Dharga Town are afraid following Daesh’s claim for the bombings.
“At the end of the day, we have to think about what they (the terrorists) are going to get from this. What have they gained? They’ve lost everything,” 38-year-old businessman M. Imthias told Arab News outside Meera Masjid. “We’ve already been through this, and we know the pain, fear, and emotions they (the Catholics) are going through.”
The Daesh claim, issued through the group’s AMAQ news agency, was made after Sri Lanka said two domestic extremist groups with suspected links to foreign militants were thought to be behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels. More than 350 people were killed and around 500 were wounded in the Easter Sunday violence.
Muslims in Dharga Town fear that efforts to rebuild after the 2014 violence are in vain. Anti-Muslim sentiments are emerging and are fueled by remarks from government officials, such as Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena saying the bombings were retaliation for last month’s New Zealand mosque bloodshed.
There have been reports of attacks on Muslim-owned shops, homes, and a mosque in Sri Lanka. There have also been renewed calls to ban the burqa, citing security reasons and Islamist extremism.
But there is also anger toward the National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ), the group initially identified as being responsible for the attacks. Dharga Town residents told Arab News they believed the perpetrators carried out the attacks for personal reasons, not religious ones, as Islam forbids suicide.
The mood in the town is sombre. Shutters are drawn across windows and stores, including supermarkets, are closed. Men gather in small groups along the road, and the area has an increased military presence. People say perpetrators of the assault should face the death penalty.
Around 20 people in Dharga Town belong to the Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamaath (SLTJ), a faction unpopular with the wider Muslim community. Six SLTJ members were arrested on Tuesday afternoon. The mosque — a shack-like structure — did not open for prayers afterwards. Dharga Town residents opposed the SLTJ establishing a community in the area because of their orthodox ways.
“They wanted to build a mosque, but we didn’t allow it. In the end, they built that place with the iron sheets, and conduct their prayers there,” a village elder, who did not wish to be identified, told Arab News. “If they come for prayers, or engage with us in anything, they always try to push their beliefs on us. What they call Islam is completely different from what we practice.”
The NTJ was ostracized by the All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulema (ACJU), Sri Lanka’s highest body of Islamic scholars. The organization relayed its suspicions about the NTJ to authorities.
“On Jan. 3, we visited intelligence officers and handed over files with all the details of the perpetrators urging them to take necessary action to stop the NTJ. This was completely ignored,” an ACJU scholar said.
The situation in Sri Lanka remains tense, with nightly curfews and reports of bomb threats. There is also confusion after the Defense Ministry said the NTJ was not behind the attacks, leaving the public afraid about the possibility of another splinter group.
But there are calls for calm, too.
“There is no such anger among us,” Sister Manuja, who survived the St. Sebastian Church bombing, told Arab News. The Catholic community would not seek vengeance, she added. “We are very quiet, very simple people.”