OPINION: By Sasya Wreksono of the Pacific Media Centre
In the 20 years I’ve lived in New Zealand since I was little, I’ve never felt unsafe or been discriminated against for being an immigrant or for my beliefs as a Muslim. I’ve always felt grateful for being able to live in a country where people are generally kind, warm and understanding.
Going on road trips with my family around the country, if we couldn’t pray at a mosque we would pray where we could – at train stations, in fields, on the side of the road. While working on set or on location I would pray out in the open.
No one would ever bat an eye.
But just because I’ve never personally experienced discrimination here, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As much as I love New Zealand and as amazing as it is, it’s far from perfect – because nothing is.
This is a country that was built on colonialism, that disregards its native Te Reo Māori language as inferior and that scorns immigrants for rising house prices and decreasing job opportunities.
This little country of ours is known around the world for being a clean, green, warm and welcoming safe haven. While I myself have never experienced otherwise, perhaps underneath the surface there’s always been a fragment of darkness that’s now manifested in the ugliest way imaginable – a piece we clearly now need to acknowledge and change.
Thank you to my fellow Kiwis for their outpouring of support for the Muslim community, especially for those directly affected. We mourn, but we should also reflect and figure out how we can ensure something like this never happens again.
What happened on Friday was appallingly, disgustingly atrocious. While we undoubtedly need to hold alt-right politicians and commentators around the West accountable for pushing the rhetoric of white supremacy and Islamophobia, in turn cultivating bigotry and hatred, we can still do something here at home.
Celebrate our similarities
We need to acknowledge our history and celebrate our similarities, not our differences.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji-un. May Allah SWT grant Jannat ul-Firdaus for our Muslim brothers and sisters who lost their lives, and inshaAllah their loved ones are granted love, warmth and sabr [“perseverance”].
Sasya Wreksono is a New Zealand filmmaker from an Indonesian family who migrated many years ago to this country to make Auckland their home. She is a screen production graduate from Auckland University of Technology. This commentary was originally published on her Facebook account and has been republished by the Pacific Media Centre with her permission.