Hamima Tuyan:'Kiwis mustn't lose the feeling they had on March 15'

From Sunday Morning, 8:41 am on 1 September 2019

Hamimah Tuyan lost her husband, Zekeriya, in the Christchurch mosque attacks and is about to leave New Zealand with her children to return to life in Singapore.

Her husband was the 51st victim, who fought for his life for 48 days in the ICU with Hamimah by his side.

Before she left, she joined Jim Mora to talk about Kiwis' attitudes towards Muslims and Islam, and wanted to share one key message to New Zealanders.

Flowers at the gate of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch today.

Flowers at the gate of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch today. Photo: RNZ / Isra'a Emhail

She says she was really struck by one conversation she had outside the mosque, which had just reopened at the time, and it got her thinking about how Kiwis view Muslims.

“I got into a conversation with four ladies … of different beliefs actually … about some of the misconceptions of Islam and Muslims.

“One of the ladies said something that affected me ‘til now and she said that … based on everything that she’s seen on TV and read in the newspapers, she got the impression that ‘you hate us’. That us Muslims in New Zealand hate the non-Muslims.

“It impacted me a lot because I have read about this being reported elsewhere but to hear it directly from someone live in front of me after this had happened, that really shook me actually.”

She decided to follow up by looking at studies on New Zealanders’ perception of Muslims and found a Victoria University one – which found that 44 percent agreed Muslims’ values were not compatible with New Zealand values.

“I was surprised … I mean Muslims worship one God, we don’t make an image of God, we don’t use God’s name in vain, we honour our parents and treat them with respect and kindness … when they say something we disagree with we are not even to say ‘ugggh’ to them.

“We don’t steal, we are not to lie or to give false testimony, we are not to kill, in fact the Quran tells us if you save an innocent life that is as if you have saved all of mankind and if you kill an innocent life that’s as if you have killed all of mankind ... in fact we are not to go to sleep with a full stomach while our neighbours, regardless of their faith, are hungry.

“What I’m listing here, anyone well-versed on the Bible would have found compatibility of what I have just listed with the Ten Commandments.”

She says Islam encourages peaceful practice of the faith, and positive interactions with the wider community in any country, and that people are to follow the rules of the land they’re in.

“All of us, one big value for us, is that we want to achieve success for ourselves and our children so that they will in turn be positive contributing members of society, now is that not compatible with any Kiwi’s value?

“These are not my values, my personal values, but if you speak to any Muslim they will tell you that, yes, these are the values that they’ve been brought up with that they’ve learnt from their faith.”

The study also noted that 51 percent agreed Muslims have customs that are not acceptable in New Zealand.

Hamimah says she struggles to see how customs and practices – like praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan, being better mannered, increasing good deeds, contributing to charity, performing pilgrimage and not consuming alcohol – would impede on other people’s lives or spaces.

One other topic there’s a lot if misconception about is attitudes towards and treatment of women, she says.

“When we talk about Islam for some reason in this day and age, that topic cannot be missed.

“I was at the lawyer's office recently to talk about inheritance and things like that, and let me just share this one bit, she was very surprised that in Islam the woman’s money is the woman’s money … but also the husband’s money is the wife’s money.

“We have so many educated women, not just in New Zealand, but all over the world, some of them are Nobel Peace Prize winners. And they were the hijab not because any man has forced them to do it but because they’ve done it out of their own accord, out of their own will … just because some Muslim majority countries put that as part of their rule or their country’s law, doesn’t make it fact that Muslim men all over the world oppress women and make them wear the hijab.”

Another point made in the study was that more than 40 percent had a feeling of perceived threat from Muslims, she says.

“I find that very hard to reconcile how we can see all this solidarity and then yet they still have this perceived threat of Muslims at the back of their head.

“I really want to make sure that I can assure [people] that we’ve been here for decades, the Muslim Kiwis, we’re not perfect but I do not want them to lose that feeling that they had on March 15 – that feeling of solidarity, and compassion and kindness for the Muslims, I don’t want them to lose that.

“I hope we can move forward and they can show the world that Kiwis know better than to blame all Muslims for the senseless act of a few.”

While she says she’s received a lot of love and support from friends, neighbours, her husband’s former colleagues and even strangers on the street, it’s financially necessary for her to leave.

Even her children though are finding it hard to depart, she says.

“It’s hard to leave friends and neighbours that have become like family.

“They [her children] feel like they’ve made lots of families and also I mentioned that I’ve received tremendous support from my husband’s former employers and colleagues, so it’s very hard for us to go. If anything, my life in New Zealand has taught me to appreciate more is the Islamic saying ‘we plan but God is the best planner’ so I’m just going with the flow at the moment.

“I will definitely be back because the New Zealand I know embraces anyone who chooses it as their home, regardless of their language, race and creed. And if I can make this my last statement … we sing it in the national anthem, right, ‘Men of every creed and race, gather here before Thy face, asking Thee to bless this place, God defend our free land’.”