Muslim Kiwis respond to Arab News’ Christchurch edition: ‘We are not forgotten’

Special Muslim Kiwis respond to Arab News’ Christchurch edition: ‘We are not forgotten’
A dozen Kiwi-Muslims gathered at an Arab cafe in Auckland to remember the Christchurch massacre, (Alanood Al-Harbi)
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Updated 19 March 2020

Muslim Kiwis respond to Arab News’ Christchurch edition: ‘We are not forgotten’

Muslim Kiwis respond to Arab News’ Christchurch edition: ‘We are not forgotten’
  • Auckland group is touched by the messages in the paper distributed in New Zealand on the anniversary of the mosque attacks
  • Another Kiwi in Saudi Arabia reaches out with his own message — and a book he co-wrote with a survivor

DUBAI: For the anniversary of the Christchurch attacks on Sunday, Arab News printed a special edition in the Middle East and New Zealand, with Arab Kiwis responding with #WeAreOne across the time zones.

While a national memorial in New Zealand to remember the 51 victims of last year’s attacks on the Al-Noor and Linwoood mosques was canceled due to fears over coronavirus, people shared their messages of hope with one another through Arab News’ print media and social media platforms.

The edition, highlighting the Arab-Kiwi connection that developed in the wake of last year’s shootings, was wrapped in a poster featuring people holding #WeAreOne signs. The cover subjects — Arab, Muslim, Kiwi, Emirati and American — had responded to Arab News’ call last month, showing up at a gathering at the Kiwi-owned Raw Coffee shop in Dubai. They also penned their own words on signs describing their connection — like “diversity”  and “hope” — and posed with them for the inside of the poster wrap.

Special edition of Arab News.

In Auckland, Ashleigh Ali-Aziz, the founder of Eyeview Ethnic Trust, a non-profit organization committed to diversity, organized a similar event for Arab News. She gathered a dozen people in her community on Sunday night at Shefco, a popular Arab cafe in the Mount Roskill neighborhood.

Many of them, including herself, traveled more than 700 kilometers to Christchurch to volunteer after the attacks. And her husband, Mohammed Al-Harbi, is the nephew of Mohsen Al-Harbi, a Saudi national who had lived in New Zealand for 25 years before he was killed in the attack on the Al-Noor mosque.

‘It’s nice to know we are definitely not forgotten.’

After looking at the pages of Arab News’ New Zealand edition, Ali-Aziz’s group made their own signs in response, with words such as “embraced,” “love” and “warmth.”

“They really liked it,” Ali-Aziz said of the New Zealand edition. “Actually, one said: ‘So much is published about us and it’s nice to know we are definitely not forgotten.’ Some also recognized a couple of familiar faces in the article, which was great.

“It is such an awesome initiative that was presented in such a creative and effective way to spread the love and support.” 

Meanwhile, from his current home in Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia, Saffin Alimamy, an Iraqi-Turkish Kiwi who graduated from Dunedin’s University of Otago last year, reached out to Arab News after reading the #WeAreOne story. He had these words to share: “As a Muslim Kiwi, we have never had such hatred toward us Muslims. We were all treated fairly with love and respect. The nameless killer is and never will be one of us. We, the people of New Zealand, are one.”

Saffin Alimamy, an Iraqi-Turkish Muslim Kiwi who has lived in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, wears Emirati national dress in this photo taken with New Zealand police officers at a World Refugee Day event in Dunedin in 2018. (Supplied)

Speaking to Arab News, Alimamy said that while he was working at an internship in Dubai during the attack, his friend, Mustafa Boztas, was one of the survivors. They have just published an e-book together called “Christchurch Mosque Shooting,” to spread awareness about hate and create a better understanding of Islam.

“I wanted to make people aware of the true meaning of our religion, that we’re not violent people,” he said. “The plan of the shooter was to separate us, but instead we became even stronger.”