19 Mar 2019

Muslim youth: 'We're stronger than we ever were before'

From Checkpoint, 5:47 pm on 19 March 2019

Two young Muslim women mourning their friends who died in the terror attacks want to make it loud and clear that they are not going to let one gunman ruin their lives. 

The attacks on Friday have particularly hit Christchurch's Muslim youth community hard.

Sports and nutrition student at the University of Canterbury, Amira Tarek Abaza, 21, and her sister Noran had their lives turned upside down after they found out some of their closest friends had been shot dead last Friday.

They didn't want to name their friends who died, but they want to make it loud and clear that they are not going to let one gunman ruin their lives.

"Our hearts are shattered, numb is probably a good word to describe it," Amira told Checkpoint.

"I just know we've always felt safe here and we're going to continue to feel safe here. I hope that the community keeps doing what they're doing.

"All he's done is taken innocent lives. We're stronger than we ever were before. 

"Here in New Zealand ... we moved over here because it's safe. We're such a diverse country. We're so accepting, we're so kind, so loving and I just know that's how it's going to stay. No one can ever take that away from us."

The perpetrator of the terror attacks failed to divide and spread hatred in New Zealand society, Noran said.

"He failed immensely. If he was to look at the news he'd see the amount of support we have, not just from New Zealand, but all over the world. 

"I think he'd realise what he did not cause division, which is what he wanted. I think he's brought everybody together."

The young women said they were thankful for the way the community had made them feel safe after the attacks, but also urged anyone who heard racist comments or witnessed behaviour to call it out and face it down.

"It's on every individual to say something, to stand up," Amira said.