“We are hurt, sad and frustrated, but we are not angry. The word retaliation doesn’t exist in our vocabulary.”
Those are the words of Sal Sulaiman, speaking on behalf of the Muslim community in Oamaru, in the wake of last Friday’s terrorist attack in Christchurch.
Mrs Sulaiman said many of the 35 to 40 Muslims living in Oamaru had ties with the two mosques that were targeted and knew those who were killed.
“I was shocked. I thought ‘Is this really happening in New Zealand?’,” she said.
“The people that were there would’ve been at peace, talking to God, in a vulnerable state of mind.
“What saddens me most is there was an elderly man, and when this person walked in, he actually welcomed him.”
Mrs Sulaiman said it had been an emotional week, and she had been unable to sleep last Friday night.
“I don’t understand how people hate people like that, we are human beings,” she said.
“I don’t hate him, I feel sorry for his soul.
“Muslims are the a peaceful people, we don’t like all of this.”
Mrs Sulaiman said she was grateful for all the support from the Waitaki community.
“I’m touched by all the warmth, support and aroha,” she said.
Mrs Sulaiman said she was upset to read news reports about ISIS planning to retaliate over the Christchurch massacre.
“Associating ISIS to Muslims in general is preposterous, it’s similar to relating all Christians to white supremacists,” she said.
“It’s obvious that hatred is being incited to divide us.”
Mrs Sulaiman said all she wanted was for people to be kind and tolerant to each other.
“When you see someone who looks different to you, don’t treat them differently,” she said.
“Terrorism has no religion.”
The Islamic Centre in Oamaru had been discussing what actions it could take to have positive benefits for its members and the community, she said.
“Anyone who wants to learn more about what we do can come in, we are welcoming and happy to help,” she said.
A Muslim group would continue with its performance as part of the Race Relations Day Multicultural Concert, singing Deen Assalam, a song about peace, love and tolerance.
Waitaki Community Safety development facilitator Helen Algar said the community had to be inclusive, kind and tolerant.
“Integration is important, but it is also important for us to value individual cultures within our community,” Mrs Algar said.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the Waitaki District Council had been doing what it could to show support for both Christchurch and the Muslim community, during a “pretty terrible time”.
A vigil was held on Saturday at St Luke’s Anglican Church, followed by with a walk down Thames St to the Oamaru Courthouse to lay flowers and pay respect, with over 100 attendees.