HYDERABAD: It was a cool Friday morning and the large Muslim community in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand comprising various nationalities, converged into the two major mosques for their jumma namaaz.
They were looking forward to their weekly tradition of getting together after prayers and socialising over good food. However, what perpetrated during the prayers, survivors of the incident feel, will change both New Zealand and their future in the country, forever.
“We were in between our prayers, when we heard loud bangs at quick intervals,” Mohammed Khwaja Mohiuddin, a survivor of the horrific terror attack by a white supremacist on two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch, told Express.
“At first I did not pay heed because I thought it was a prank by kids who had lit some crackers. It sounded like that. However, it was when a member of the congregation cried out asking us to get down on the ground that I realised something was wrong.”
A resident of Moula Ali and chef by profession, Mohiuddin was at the Linwood Mosque along with his close friend Imran Ahmed Khan when the shooter Brenton Tarrant opened an indiscriminate fire. He somehow saved his life, but his restaurateur friend, received a bullet injury to the head killing him on the spot.
“It was only on Thursday that I and Imran were discussing talking about going back home to Hyderabad and how much the city had changed over the years,” Mohiuddin recalled solemnly. It was in Imran’s restaurant that he worked as a chef and through the years had developed a close bond with him.
Eight minutes before opening fire at the mosque, the terrorist Tarrant had live-streamed the entire attack on Facebook. The video soon went viral all over the world. In the video once could see Karimnagar-based Imran being shot in the head. However, Mohiuddin could not muster the courage to see the video. “We really do not want to see it. I have been telling anyone who has come across the video to delete it.”
It was also through the videos that the Tolichowki resident Ashar Ali Khan, who currently resides in Auckland, got to know that his friends, including the deceased Farhaj Ahsan and Imran, were attacked. Ashar, Ahsan’s neighbour until three years ago while he stayed in Christchurch, said, “We were getting the videos 10 minutes from the time of incident. I immediately started calling people I know but could not get any response until hours later. They then described to me the horrific ordeal.”
He then remembered the 31-year-old Ahsan as a friendly, jovial person, with ‘a smile on his face always’.
“He was our go-to friend for any kind of advice on politics, education or getting to know the bureaucratic processes of New Zealand. He was always very approachable,” Ashar said, adding that on numerous occasions they took weekend outings together.
The same was iterated about Ahsan by Mohiuddin who said, “He was always cool and calm. Even if he was busy, he would take the time to stand and talk to others.”
However for both Ashar and Mohiuddin the future is not as bright as it was in New Zealand before the attack. Yet they both said that during their stay in New Zealand they had never faced any incidents of racism or Islamophobia.
Mohiuddin also pointed out that the perpetrator Tarrant was not a native of New Zealand and was an Australian-native. “We have never faced any discrimination from the locals and they are very helpful. The terrorist was not from here.”