21 Mar 2019

Mosque attack victim 'a real character and a kind and caring Kiwi'

11:14 am on 21 March 2019

Mohsin Al-Harbi made a difference at the business where he worked - he exposed his colleagues to a new culture and left them better off. The man who hired him loved him and he touched the team he worked with. He was one of the Christchurch terror attack victims.

Christchurch terror attack victim Moshin Al-Harbi.

Mohsin Al-Harbi. Photo: Showerwell Home products / Supplied

Showerwell Home Products have described Mr Al-Harbi as "real character and a kind and caring Kiwi" and the company's manager Nick Mallia said he was proud to have hired him.

"Our experience of Mohsin was when we hire people we always try to hire someone who is a bit of a wildcard amidst all of the obvious choices," Mr Mallia said.

"So we chose Mohsin because he had some amazing sales experience and his claim to fame was … he worked for one of those vacuum cleaner companies that sold vacuum cleaners direct - door-to-door … and his claim to fame was that he was the number one vacuum cleaner salesman in the world for that company and he brought the certificate into the interview to show me this thing and it was from 20 years ago or something …

"So I ended up taking him on because he just had so much passion to do his job… he challenged us to sell things that we hadn't sold before and he went out and started making connections and bringing in people from the Muslim community to our business."

Although Mr Al-Harbi had stopped working at Showerwell more than a year ago, his legacy lived on, Mr Mallia.

"We are all typical Kiwis, so we had never had any real dealings with someone who had a different background like his and we had to set aside a prayer space for him and we had to give him the opportunity to pray during the day and it was strange for us. It was hard for us to kind of get our heads around our differences but the guy himself made all of that very natural and so he became a bit of character.

"The photo [of Mohsin riding a segway-type device] - he imported a whole bunch of them and … he decided he would go door-to-door to every hotel in Christchurch and tell them about our business and tell them what we could offer for their companies.

"He was very determined and very aware of what he wanted out of life. And so I really loved the guy. He was just a real character. We had to accommodate things and make changes because we were, I guess, a little bit stuck in our ways and naive in terms of other cultures but he left us for the better. I'm very proud of the decision I made to give him a go.

"Mohsin - the first business deal he did with us was to the mosque and we sold tiles and other products and organised the renovations for one of the bathroom areas. He took me in and showed me and he was so proud of the mosque and his involvement in it…

"He was the one who introduced us to them and we … continued business and had ongoing relationships with lots of people in the muslim community as a result of him being here. He affected us a lot and changed our business."

Pictures of Christchurch mosques attack victims sits above flowers at a memorial site near the Al Noor mosque.

Pictures of Christchurch terror attack victims sits above flowers at a memorial site near the Al Noor mosque. Photo: AFP or licensors

Born in Saudi Arabia, Mr Al-Harbi had lived in New Zealand for 25 years. He was injured in the attack and survived, only to later die in hospital. He was 61.

His wife, Manal, suffered a heart attack while she searched for Mr Al-Harbi at the Al Noor mosque and was taken to hospital in critical condition.

His son, Dr Feras Al-Harbi, said in a column for Arab News that his father had cancer.

Mr Al-Harbi expected he would die from the disease, but instead, he was killed by "bullets from a terrorist's gun", his son wrote.

"Who was my father? He was a warm-hearted person who respected people of all races and all religions. His character was a simple one, but nevertheless he was well educated and well read. A linguist, he spoke Arabic, English, Greek, German and Hebrew," Dr Al-Harbi wrote.

"He devoured books, especially about the history of different civilizations. He read every day, and he taught us all to do the same.

"He did not live his life in the glare of publicity, but more in the shadows, simply and quietly, until the manner of his death threw him into the public gaze."

Mr Mallia said the company had hired other muslims after Mr Al-Harbi.

The accountant was egyptian and she was a member of Mr Al-Harbi's mosque - her husband was there during the shooting.

While she was OK, she lost seven friends in the attack, Mr Mallia said.

She had come to New Zealand because of the opportunities, the lifestyle and the freedom it offered, he said.

"I feel embarrassed that this has happened - as well as all the shock and pain - because we were representing what the good side of New Zealand could be to these people and our involvement with her has been brilliant. She's great at her job and we just love her. Then this kind of thing happens and on top of everything else that has happened it is embarrassing for us because they deserve to see the better parts of our country, not this cr…"

Mr Mallia said his staff were coping just like everyone else - in shock and working through it.

"We've been touched quite a lot by this."

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