'First Muslim to die, greeted attacker'

A man weeps during Friday prayers at the Gatesville Mosque. A special prayer session was held for the victims of the New Zealand terror attack. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

A man weeps during Friday prayers at the Gatesville Mosque. A special prayer session was held for the victims of the New Zealand terror attack. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 16, 2019


Cape Town - The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has called on South Africa’s leaders to do more to counter Islamophobia in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in New Zealand, which saw at least 49 Muslims slain.

Mosques across the country and the world yesterday dedicated their prayers to the victims of the horrific attack.

MJC President Sheikh Irafaan Abrahams said local leaders had to do more to curtail similar hatred and terrorism against any groups in South Africa.

“This includes provocative and divisive speech, which can also contribute to an increase in Islamophobia and racism,” Abrahams said.

“It is critical that we stand together as a community and oppose all acts and words of hatred, terrorism, racism and violence directed at any member of any society, particularly based on their religion, race or affiliations.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa sent his condolences to those affected in New Zealand.

“The government and the people of South Africa convey their deepest condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones and wish all the injured a speedy recovery,” said Khusela Diko, spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

“The South African diplomatic mission in Wellington has been directed to provide consular assistance and support to any South Africans affected.”

Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, 28, appears to be responsible for the massacre as he is seen live-streaming the incident on Facebook, from the perspective of a shooter. The police have confirmed that a man in his late 20s has been charged with murder.

Tarrant posted about his plans on chatroom site 8chan before carrying out the attack.

“I will carry out and attack against the invaders, and will even live-stream the attack via Facebook,” he wrote.

“If I don’t survive the attack, goodbye, god bless and I will see you all in Valhalla!”

He posted a right-wing manifesto online minutes before the attack on two separate mosques during the time of Friday prayers.

The Madina Institute in Cape Town, which is a learning centre for the teachings of Muslim sciences, said mosques should not close out of fear, after the shooting.

“We call on the Muslim community to denounce any attempts of instilling fear in our brothers and sisters in practising their Din (faith).

“We revoke all calls to close any Masjids as a solution to safety.

“We instead invite communities to increase the interfaith relations between religious sects to empower communities with knowledge to basic human rights, dignity and freedom of religion.”

Some mourners pointed out that the response of the first Muslim victim in the mosque was a true reflection of the values of Islam. In the video, he is confronted with a gun, but responds with a polite greeting.

Aziz Helou wrote: “The first Muslim man to die, his final words were ‘hello brother’. He had a rifle pointed at him by a man with clear intentions to kill and how did he respond? With anger? With aggression? No, with the most gentle and sincere greeting of ‘hello brother’.

“This man’s final act was an Islamic one, a sincere courageous and warm way to stop violence instead of fuelling it.”

Meanwhile, more than 6000 worshippers packed the Gatesville Mosque to voice their condemnation of the Christchurch attacks.

Weekend Argus attended a special prayer service at the mosque,“salaatul ghaib”, prayers for those who were gunned down.

Gatesville Mosque spokesperson Sataar Parker said close to 2000 more worshippers filled the mosque yesterday.

Usually, around 4000 - 4500 worshippers gather each Friday for the Jumu’ah prayers.

“We condemn any form of terrorism, be it on a mosque, church, synagogue or temple and especially when people are praying. We prayed today to ask the Almighty to grant them a high abode in the hereafter,” said Sataar.

He said he learnt of the shooting at 6am yesterday and they immediately made preparations for their special midday prayers to be broadcast around the world.

“We commend the New Zealand government for having identified this heinous act as a blatant act of terrorism,” he said.

Sataar said the Christchurch shooting was a chilling reminder of the Kenilworth church shooting on July 25, 1993 and the Verulam Mosque attacks on May 11.

“We need to safeguard our country from the evils of extremism,” Sataar said.

Chief executive of Islamia College, Sheikh Sadullah Khan, who was the guest speaker during yesterday’s Jumu’ah prayers, said it’s always shocking when innocent people are killed.

“What’s even more shocking is that this happened in New Zealand.

“There is virtually no crime. Incidents like these do spread fear and insecurity,” he said.

Khan said places of worship are institutions of enlightenment and should be protected at all costs.

Nabeel Royker, 15, who was at the Jumu’ah prayers, said the attacks would not stop him from offering prayers at any mosque.

“I am just really shocked that someone could do this to innocent people and then still post the video on social media,”said the Rondebosch Boys’ High School student.

The Gatesville Mosque said it would continue with an awareness programme of the attacks in Christchurch.

Many South Africans who have family and friends that have immigrated to New Zealand were worried by the attack.

Weekend Argus

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