The Human Rights Lawyers Association would like to convey its deep sadness at the horrific events and heartbreaking loss of life that took place at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Mosques on the afternoon of 15 March 2019. We are united with the Muslim community and the rest of the country in utter condemnation of the hatred that manifested itself that day in unprecedented violence towards a group of people peacefully expressing their freedom of religion. While we strongly believe that this is a time for coming together as one nation in love and support for those most directly affected by this atrocity — the families and loved ones of those killed and injured — we also consider that it is important to acknowledge the Muslim community as a whole, who have been deeply traumatised by these events.
Many feel that their concerns about rising levels of racism and Islamophobia have fallen on deaf ears and that the many instances of mosques being targeted by hatred in recent years have been ignored. As a community they have lived under a veil of suspicion from police and security services concerned about radicalisation and focused on preventing the very actions that have now been inflicted on this same community. This has undoubtedly resulted in a form of double victimisation for Muslims in New Zealand. Now is the time to stand with all vulnerable communities in New Zealand, and examine racism as it exists in this country, in all its forms, however insidious.
Racism exists in a thousand different forms and we need to start being vigilant. It can range from casual comments to damaging lip service; policies such as “diversity and inclusion” that do little to examine unconscious bias or embrace and include diverse communities, through to physical acts of violence. We need to enable and encourage Muslim voices to lead the conversations. It is not good enough for us to talk about what happened and what can be done, if Muslims remain largely invisible in these discussions. People of colour need to be included and accepted in all spaces; not silenced and relegated to their small spaces of safety. Let’s make New Zealand society a safe space for all its people. Let’s be brave. Let’s identify Islamophobia wherever it exists. Let’s call it out. We have faith that this country has the love and capacity to engage in these difficult conversations and come out better for it. Aroha nui, kia kaha Aotearoa — stay kind and stay strong.