How the New Zealand Shooting Strengthened Us
Standing side by side, feet aligned and gaze lowered, nothing but a melodic hum can be heard. I stand between two strangers, one whose wrinkles hold years of wisdom and the other whose fidgeting fingers tell me she must be young. We are different, yet we are reciting the same words and going through the same actions, all at the same time. I quickly break my gaze with the rug at my feet and look ahead. Hundreds of others bow down simultaneously and turn their heads from right to left; I revert my attention and do the same. We conclude our prayer.
This is one of the five pillars of Islam. As Muslims, we do it five times a day—individually in the privacy of one's home, alongside strangers in a mosque or even out in a public park. Through our prayers, we are united. With our differences aside, regardless of race, social standing, gender or age, we are one. The synchronization of prayer with the sun rising and setting, puts our minds in touch with nature and our hearts in connection with God.
Every Friday, a congregational prayer is held in mosques around the world where thousands of Muslims gather. As on any other Friday and in any other mosque, one gathering in particular remains in our hearts. On March 15 there was a collision between one of the most peaceful actions, prayer, with one of the most destructive actions. The Christchurch mosque shootings were two consecutive terrorist attacks in New Zealand. The lives of 50 individuals were ended during their completion of prayer—an action of peace. An action of love.
These acts of terror did not discriminate against age, nor gender nor sincerity of heart as three women, one three-year-old and 46 other men, mothers, grandparents and children, were killed.
The actions taken subsequent to tragedies are most telling of where we will go as witnesses and victims. The sorrow in our hearts are the driving forces that will lead our world to peace. Change is a byproduct of the hope and love circulated, not of the fear and terror instilled. We must not give history the privilege and entitlement to repeat its brutal past, rather we must be the ones to announce an immediate ban on assault rifles, as did Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's Prime Minister. We must be the ones to stand in solidarity with those affected. And most importantly, we must deny ignorance the right to overpower our hearts.
I will pray with my Muslim brothers and sisters this Friday just as I have done every Friday before and just as I will every Friday after. Our backs may face the entrance to the mosque vulnerably but our hearts stand resilient. We still continue to gather every Friday, standing side by side, feet aligned and gaze lowered—as one, as united.