COMMENT

I woke up on Sunday morning with the strong feeling that I needed to write.

It was an overwhelming feeling and I told my husband and children that I had to be undisturbed to make sense of these overwhelming emotions on paper.

Reflecting on the past two days, the feeling that hit me when I first read the news at work was one of disbelief but I have to admit it was muted.

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Muted because as a Muslim woman who has lived in the UK and has had a fair share of terrorism news on the TV, it felt that I had been through this before.

My husband texted me to let me know that the mosque that this happened in was the same one he attended last Friday for the Friday prayers while he was in a conference in Christchurch.

I still felt quite numb and removed from the whole experience.

Having dinner with a friend over Friday night, I explained to her that yes it is shocking, but I guess I have been a mute spectator so many times observing acts of terrorism that make no sense to a sane mind, that maybe this was my way of coping with the shock and horror that traumas such as these unfold.

I came back on Friday night to an array of missed calls and 250 messages from people around the world wondering if we were safe.

It was at that point that I decided that I needed to face this and watch the horror unfolding on TV.

Why was this attack any different to ones that I have seen before?

It felt that this was a direct attack on a group of people who were at the most vulnerable.

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For me, my prayer time is a time of stillness, meditation and reflection.

It is a time when we block out all the busyness of the world and succumb to a force higher than ourselves.

It is only through this that I find peace and strength in this world.

For a human being to have been so sad inside and so full of hatred to wipe out a congregation of people gathered together to bring peace, irrespective of age or gender, just brings to light how deranged and warped the human mind can be when we fill it with hatred.

It started to sink in at that point that it could have been me among those women who had lost their loved ones as my husband was also part of the same congregation and missed on being there only by one Friday prayer.

I have seen any acts of terrorism around the world and have been on the side where my heart has bled for all the people who have lost their loved ones due to acts of terror created by humans - humans who should not even be called humans.

It brought to light one thing; that there are sick people in the world who can belong to any religion, race or background who are so full of sadness and hate, but that does not define a nation.

I heard talk among people discussing that this person was Australian and Australians can be racist. It hurt me to hear this.

Why? Because I have been on the other side of the fence when acts of terrorism have been performed by animals who say that they are doing this in the way of Islam.

I have always felt deeply sad that there are people out there who can brandish a whole nation as being wrong just due to the unjustified act of one crazy person.

No nation or religion in the world can be labelled due to vile acts created by individuals who are deranged.

Being present at the Tauranga Mosque where hordes of people turned up to offer their condolences just brought to light what love and compassion can achieve.

There has been an overwhelming amount of support and love and flowers and cards that have poured in from people who just want to be part of our grief - who want to let us know that we are not alone, that we are not different, that we are them!

I went to visit the Tauranga vigil at the Mount. It was one of the most beautiful evenings of my life.

People from all walks of life had come to attend this and were offering condolences through songs, flowers and candles and heartfelt speeches.

Watching this overwhelming occasion as a spectator, I felt that I had to say something on behalf of the Muslim community but for the first time in my life I felt scared of being singled out as a Muslim.

I, who have been fiercely proud of being a Muslim of Pakistani origin, who am extremely vocal about my roots and the pride that I have in being different, who has lived through countless acts of terrorism, felt scared of even saying thank you.

I pulled myself together and looked around me at the love and compassion that was being so generously given and felt ashamed of myself for that very human moment of being afraid.

I will repeat what I said there that we may follow different beliefs and look different but at the end of the day – we are all humans.

I looked around me and felt proud of being part of New Zealand – a country where people are foremost humans - who gathered around strong and fierce around a minority group just offering love and support.

I have never felt such openness and warmth from people as I have felt from people in this country, starting from the admirable words and actions of a great Prime Minister to the many people who gave their time, money and support to us in our time of need.

The only thing that I can say now is that out of this tragedy, the strongest feeling that has surfaced is a feeling of love, acceptance and strength as people unite against hatred in this hour: It certainly killed the purpose for which this vile act was committed.

Instead of us being divided, we stand together in this time of darkness.

- Saima Anis, Tauranga