I had just celebrated one of those ‘big’ birthdays. I found myself musing, “How did I get here so quickly?” A question that surprised even me! I had hit the end of one decade and was starting another. While moving through the previous decades had been pretty effortless, this one felt different. The realisation that most of my life is behind me. Now the future is not sometime out there but is right here, right now!
“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” Jacinda Ardern
“This is not us” is the phrase many of us have used after the shock of the Christchurch Mosque massacres which claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers. It may come as a surprise to Kiwis, but that sentiment is being challenged on a leading US website, Buzzfeed.
Australian Buzzfeed reporter Hannah Ryan, found examples of Muslims who had been discriminated against or were the victims of hate speech – and actions.
Television cameras and interviewers were present on Christchurch’s last vigil for the 50 Muslims who’d been slain a week before. A young Muslim woman said the “Free-speech people” had a lot to answer for.
She used the expression ‘free-speech’ people once more in the interview, clearly in the belief that the law allowing free speech was partly to blame for the massacre. Or did she? Was she referring to the hateful, divisive and unregulated racists ensconced on social media?
The Prime Minister was right to announce to the world that in New Zealand we are all ‘us,’ but although it made us feel virtuous to agree with her, we know that’s not true.
You could say that, in general, we have tolerated Muslims, but they will tell you about being held in Customs for longer periods than other New Zealanders and that they have a harder time than European immigrants trying to get their parents to visit from places like India and Pakistan. And that feels like discrimination.
The last time I played rugby was when I was a (relatively) springy 34-year-old.
I’d moved from south Wales to take up a new job on the English north east coast 45 kilometres or so from the town where I was born. The good news: We found a house in a small, pleasant and ancient market town of some seven thousand people. The not so good: we knew very few people apart from a handful of new colleagues.
How, I asked myself, could I make friends? The local Clubs didn’t appeal and that left sports clubs; why not try rugby again?
Islam says that all guests should be welcomed and treated with kindness and respect – Muslim or non-Muslim. Haji Daoud Nabi was at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque door and welcomed the shooter in to worship last Friday.
“Welcome brother,” were the last words he said before he was shot. I have heard and read so many stories about this tragedy that have torn at my heart but, it’s this scenario which keeps running and rerunning in my head. And , it’s been made even more poignant for me after seeing a photograph of Haji , a kindly elderly Afghan man with a beautiful little girl who looks so like our own grandchild.
On This Day – we can call it that now because of its notoriety – we drove through Mt Roskill and paused for the stop-go road worker. We sighed and complied – just another Auckland roading improvement. On the footpath beside us, a Muslim in traditional dress tugged at his reluctant son’s hand and dragged him home as he strode past, looking grim.