by Greta Yeoman
Timaru’s Muslim community is grieving but feeling supported by the community in the wake of Friday’s mosque shootings in Christchurch, one man says.
Dr Muhammad Khalid, who works as a surgeon in Timaru, said the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, which killed 50 people, had shaken the small community of Muslims in Timaru.
“Some children and teenagers have been crying.”
As there is no mosque in Timaru for worshippers, many Timaru Muslims had travelled to the Christchurch mosques – both the Al Noor Mosque in Deans Ave and the Linwood Masjid (mosque in Arabic) – at weekends to pray.
“We have gone to that mosque [on Deans Ave] many times.”
Because of this, several of the victims were known to his family and others in the Timaru Muslim community, which is about 10 families, Dr Khalid said.
While Dr Khalid had not been “close” with those killed in Friday’s terrorism attack, he had known the Pakistani victims of the tragedy, while another Egyptian family from Timaru had known other Egyptian Muslims who had been killed.
“It is a small community.”
He said he had been working in surgery when the news broke, but finished the operation before finding out what had happened.
One of his first thoughts was about the origin of the shooter.
“I said he is not a Kiwi – Kiwi cannot do it.”
He said the Timaru Muslim community felt it was a “one-off event” by someone who was “away from the mainstream ideology” of New Zealanders.
Timaru residents had been very supportive of the community in the days after the shooting, Dr Khalid said.
“People left flowers at my door.”
A neighbour had also come around, so overwhelmed by tears of grief he could not speak, while the condemnation of the attack by politicians and outpouring of support from around the country had also been “very reassuring”, he said.
He had also not seen “any doubt” from the town’s Muslim members about choosing to live in New Zealand.
“[We] made the right choice.”
He had lived in Timaru since 2016, and had never had any overtly bad experiences and neither had his wife, who wears a headscarf.
“It happened but not to the point where it is worrisome.”
Dr Khalid compared the supportive response from New Zealanders to when he had lived in Europe, where he had seen plenty of “scaremongering” talk and articles following any shootings.
In contrast, he said local Muslims had “all appreciated” the community vigil at Caroline Bay on Sunday afternoon – organised by the Timaru Christian Ministers Association with support from the Timaru District Council – as well as ongoing offers of support from schools in the town.
“All of New Zealand has stood together,” Dr Khalid said.
This story has been amended to more accurately reflect that in
commenting on the way New Zealanders had banded together following the terrorist attack, Dr Khalid emphasised that “we are all one, we are all together as New Zealanders”.
The Courier apologises for the mistake, particularly at a time when words are so important.