Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. In the name of God, the most-Gracious, the most-Merciful.
One year on and my mother has called me 30 times in one evening. I have been offline and without communication for two hours after I said I would be home, and she assumes the worst. Anyone would.
One year on and the Christchurch Massacre haunts me. It is all but a forgotten memory to those who will never know what it is like to be a visibly Muslim person in this country. 51 people murdered, and after the initial month of mourning and shock and horror, it seems as though everyone has moved on. Yet still, one year on, and it lingers in the minds of my mother, my grandmother, my sisters, my aunty and my uncles. Two hours without any communication and my mum thought I had been kidnapped. Why?
On Friday the 15th of March 2019, I attended one of the largest rallies I’d ever been to. At that point in my life, I normally worked on Fridays but I had taken it off for the long-awaited global climate strike. I remember being in awe at the hundreds of thousands of people that marched globally, at the warmth of solidarity, and at the sheer strength in numbers. Once the strike had come to a close, my mum began calling me. She is quite a stressful and protective woman. Many have known her to call and message me often, asking for an update on my location, or an estimated time of arrival home; this call was different.
I remember hearing the tremors in her voice, begging and pleading for me to come home. Chills immediately overtook me and I left a whole group of friends without saying goodbye. On the long commute home, I kept refreshing relevant news outlets and social media apps, each time the death count growing, my heart aching and my senses going numb.
I still think about this day often.
Because while others have moved on, I can’t shake the memory of my family huddled in the lounge room staring at the television. I watched testimonies from families, distraught yet so full of forgiveness, wondering how they did it. How could they forgive, when one year on, I have not yet? That night I stayed up for hours, shedding tears for lives that I did not know, who still felt like kin to me. In Islam, all Muslims are brothers and sisters, bound together by faith, and allegiance to the oneness of a most-Gracious and most-Powerful God. We are driven to live and love in this life, knowing that this is not the end for us, and our lost loved ones await us in the next realm. I find comfort in this.
In my life, grief and mourning are not something I have been a stranger to. As an Arab woman I have witnessed death and murder at the hands of colonialism and western intervention from the moment I could put a name to a place. My mother and my mother’s mother have taught me that heartbreak is not foreign to a Muslim woman.
We have all endured islamophobic attacks ourselves, our hijabs making us walking targets, and we live on despite this. We have no other choice.
One year on and I can recognise that the grief and anguish that has been expressed by the Muslim community post-Christchurch massacre, is one that is collective. This is due to the fact that incidents like this do not and have not existed in isolation. It was not even a day after the massacre in New Zealand that a man rammed his car into the gates of a Queensland mosque while shouting offensive words to worshippers inside. It was not even 6 months after the massacre, that the name of the Christchurch shooter and a phrase from a Serbian anti-Muslim song were sprayed onto the outer wall of a Brisbane mosque. It was 10 months after the massacre that a heavily pregnant Muslim woman wearing a hijab was brutally attacked, punched and stepped on by a man yelling islamophobic hate speech in Sydney. All this, and it is not just these violent attacks that permeate our everyday lives. It is consistent microaggressions, isolation and anti-refugee sentiment. It is silence. It is complacency. It is calm. It is calm. It is calm. When we are all storm.
It is the fact that exactly one year on, and my mother still worries that I will end up another statistic in Documenting Oppression Against Muslims, and then forgotten by the rest of the world.
One year on and my mother and I are trying to remember peace. I hope we find it someday.
One year on and we remember the 51 lives taken on Friday the 15th of March 2019 in Christchurch in New Zealand. Two consecutive shootings were committed at the hands of an Australian far-right white supremacist in two different mosques during Friday prayers. May their souls rest easy, and may their families find the strength they need to live on.