It has been an emotional week, both on a personal and global level.
I’m doing my best to not pore through every little detail about what exactly happened and why this past Friday in New Zealand.
This is not the first time a right-wing white supremacist has killed dozens of innocent people and I hate to say, it probably won’t be the last. While in this particular instance Muslims were specifically targeted, these attacks are part of a centuries-long fear of the unknown.
When the unknown could be held captive or frankly decimated completely, those in power felt no threat. But now that the world is becoming more and more integrated and the “other” can and will no longer be held captive, it’s like the alarms have gone off and those who feel threatened feel compelled to take action.
The ironic thing is that those who commit these heinous acts have been powerless for some time. The brown person, the Muslim, the foreigner however defined is just a convenient excuse. They’re a tangible target the “threatened” can do something about – even though their solution is not the answer and in fact is in the completely wrong direction. The “outsider” has no power in the system; it’s irrational to even think they are the cause of the problem. But they are different. They look different, they speak a different language, they worship differently… and those who feel threatened are angry and desperately need something to rally behind. There it is.
I know evil people have always existed and will continue to exist as long as human beings still live on this planet. I won’t get into theodicy because that’s not a concern of mine. I don’t understand why, but I accept that that’s just the way it is.
What is new is how in-your-face it all is.
I was fine on Friday until the evening. I didn’t cry when I first learned about the attack on the two mosques. I didn’t cry after the surprisingly rude and demeaning cop pulled me over for speeding (of course, I should not have been speeding, but I have never felt so powerless and at the hands of mercy of another like that ever. In retrospect, it was a good wake-up call). A couple of people throughout the day even said how sorry they were about what happened. I didn’t cry then.
But after I came home from work and Mr. Rafia shared some of the horrifying details I had avoided until then, I read more on what happened. And then I started to think about how these Muslims were killed while praying. I knew that. But I really thought about it. When Muslims pray, we are in many ways no longer a part of this world. I think all prayers have a sacrality to them. But there are rules governing how Muslims are to pray. For instance, when my nose starts running while I am in prayer, I let it run until I complete the circuit of prayer and then grab a tissue. The point is that we are not supposed to break our prayer for anything. And so, for the shooter to kill these Muslims at a time when they were at their lowest defenses… just let that sink for a while.
And then that’s when the emotions of the entire week overcame me. Some of the tears were selfish, I will admit. Earlier in the week, I was prompted to grapple with my relationship to my local Muslim community and then this happens and I’m like, “God, I am such a horrible person. I rarely go to the masjid and these people were killed at the masjid.” I felt like such a sinner. I know the “good” thing to do would have been to go to the mosque that evening, but I really needed to be alone and talk to God. I didn’t need to hear statements of support, as well-meaning as they are. I needed to be with God, alone. Though I pray five times a day, it’s only when I make dua in English, when the house is empty, and cry multiple times that I feel like it’s finally getting through. My soul needed that this weekend.
I am doing better today. But I feel selfish for even writing this because 49 other Muslims no longer have the chance to say it, in this dunya at least — and their families and friends will not be better for a long time.
Because the concept of the ummah is such a big part of our faith, whenever we learn of even just one loss of life, it feels personal. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said: “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever;” thus explaining the title of this post.
But this attack against Muslims in New Zealand felt even more personal for me. Maybe because it was in the “West” (geographically, no, but you know what I mean – pluralistic, majority white country) and it was in the masjid, what is thought to be the heart and soul of the Muslim community, during prayer, the raison d’etre of a Muslim.