What happened during Christchurch pilgrims’ moving Hajj journey

Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh consoles a pilgrim whose husband died during the Christchurch attack last year. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 March 2020

What happened during Christchurch pilgrims’ moving Hajj journey

  • King Salman invited 200 Muslims from New Zealand for Hajj last year
  • Al-Asheikh was overwhelmed by tears after seeing an elderly woman in Makkah walking on crutches, grieving for her husband who was killed in the terrorist attack

Months after the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, 200 survivors and relatives of the victims performed the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman.
This humanitarian gesture by King Salman, part of the Hajj and Umrah program carried out by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, helped to alleviate the pain in the wake of an attack that killed 51 worshippers during Friday prayers in the New Zealand city.
The invitation was extended after the Saudi ambassador to New Zealand, Abdulrahman Al-Suhaibani, told the families that King Salman was horrified by the attacks and that he would be paying for all the costs.
Al-Suhaibani said that this was the first time the king invited anyone from New Zealand on his annual program to help get people to Hajj. The group also traveled to holy sites in Madinah.
The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, who is the program’s general supervisor, received the New Zealand guests at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah last summer, stressing that this brutal aggression is rejected by all religions.

“My actions when receiving our brothers and sisters from New Zealand represent the respect, love and mercy that Saudis have toward all human beings in the world and not just Muslims.” 

Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh

During the reception for the survivors and victims’ families, feelings of joy were mixed with sadness and separation.
Al-Asheikh was overwhelmed by tears after seeing an elderly woman in Makkah walking on crutches, grieving for her husband who was killed in the terrorist attack. He kissed her head and embraced her, touching off a wave of reaction on social media ranging from people supporting this humane gesture to others who condemned it.
In a response via the Al-Arabiya channel, Al-Asheikh said: “We have the hearts of human beings that react to sadness and sorrow. Our Islamic religion taught us to show mercy, compassion and sympathy toward those who witnessed injustice. 
“My actions when receiving our brothers and sisters from New Zealand represent the respect, love and mercy that Saudis have toward all human beings in the world and not just Muslims. We carry the message of Islam, a message of love, mercy and kindness. These are the teachings of Islam; this is our true self. We are humans and our hearts are not made of stone.”
Al-Asheikh said that he was not disturbed by the negative responses. “Whoever sympathized with the footage, it shows their good core and their merciful hearts,” he said.


UK foreign minister’s bodyguard suspended after gun left on plane

Updated 19 September 2020

UK foreign minister’s bodyguard suspended after gun left on plane

  • The incident is the second time this year that a British police officer has been suspended in similar circumstances
  • Raab had been traveling back to Britain on the flight after meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
LONDON: London’s police force said on Saturday it had suspended an officer tasked with guarding British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, following a newspaper report that the officer had left a loaded gun on a plane.
The incident is the second time this year that a British police officer has been suspended in similar circumstances. One of former Prime Minister David Cameron’s bodyguards mislaid his firearm and Cameron’s passport in a plane toilet in February.
Britain’s Sun newspaper said a cleaner at London’s Heathrow Airport found a semi-automatic Glock 19 pistol on a United Airlines plane which had just landed after an overnight flight from Washington.
Raab had been traveling back to Britain on the flight after meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“We are aware of the incident on a flight into the UK on Friday 18 September and we are taking this matter extremely seriously,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
“The officer involved has since been removed from operational duties whilst an internal investigation into the circumstances is taking place,” it said.
The Sun said the officer had been sorting out passports when he took off his holster with the pistol in it, and left it on the seat of the plane.
A police spokesman said he could not comment on the details of the Sun’s report.