By Guled Mire *
Opinion - This week has been incredibly heavy for many Muslim New Zealanders, particularly for the victims impacted most by the Christchurch terrorist Mosque attacks. Like many of us, I've been deeply moved by the sheer courage, strength and resilience displayed by members of my community. The life without parole sentence served by Justice Mander is without a doubt the right call. Alhumduliah (thank god) for justice being served and I hope the verdict provides some form of closure to those still reeling from the effects of a devastating tragedy.
But, the truth is, it's not over. The conclusion of this week's sentencing is only part of a longer healing journey we must embark on as a nation. There's still some soul-searching to be done about how and why an extreme white supremacist lived among us and the underlying conditions that have paved the way for him to plan and carry out such heinous attacks. We need to continue engaging in the uncomfortable conversations started 18 months ago to ensure another tragedy doesn't occur on our shores.
There's been much talk about how incredible the response has been towards the Muslim community since the attacks. Many have referenced the display of aroha shown by the public in the immediate days and week as a sign of supporting evidence. Yet in many ways it feels as though we were so quick to pat ourselves on the back for our response and quickly move on. And while those initial acts of aroha have been incredibly important and helpful to those impacted most, they mean nothing if we don't take steps to address our uncomfortable realities.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, we may be a small country, but that does not mean we are immune from the virus of racism. It is deeply embedded into the structure and foundation of our country. It may be difficult for some to acknowledge our history and come to terms or face it, but for us to move forward together, for us to truly be able to heal as a country, we must recognise and face our history. Our tūpuna in Aotearoa have witnessed pain and struggles as a result of racial inequalities at the hands of colonialism and the ancestral trauma is still felt today by their legacies.
Now more than ever before we must acknowledge the racial disparities near and far which have destroyed and continue to destroy the lives of many individuals and communities. We must question the systemic, historical, structural racism that has led to law enforcement authorities overlooking the threat of white supremacy and extremism.
I hope that we can create further opportunities to come to together, to showcase our kotahitanga and commitment to eliminating racism. The display of aroha from the public this week has once again been really heartening to witness. The question however on the mind of many of us in the Muslim community is how long will it last for? Just a day? A week? What about when our community is no longer in the headlines? Will you stand with us to reignite uncomfortable conversations about racism in the weeks and years to follow?
These are questions we will keep asking. This is a cause we will continue to fight. Everyone must come together to say no more will we tolerate racism in Aotearoa. And the very same way we joined together as a team of five million to battle the Covid-19 virus which is affecting us all, we must too join together and continue to be a team of five million to tackle the virus of racism, as it also impacts us all.
* Guled Mire is the co-founder of Third Culture Minds, a non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing positive mental health and wellbeing outcomes for young New Zealanders of refugee and migrant background. He has recently received a Fulbright scholarship to undertake a Master of Public Administration specialising in Human Rights and Social Justice at Cornell University.
Watch One Year On, a Loading Docs documentary featuring Guled Mire:
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