Now, Now We Come Together

 
 Omar Nabi holds up a photo of his father Haji-Daoud Nabi, which he also posted online with the lament, "Please Dad. Come home." Photo by Jason South. Front photo by Mark Baker/AP

 
"Please Dad. Come Home," Omar Nabi wrote plaintively beside a courtly photo he posted of his 71-year-old father Haji-Daoud Nabi, the first of now-50 victims named in the grisly Christchurch terrorist attack. Slowly, more names and stories are emerging. The dead include nationals from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom. They were mothers, grandparents, children including some as young as three and four: "The smallest coffins are the heaviest." They were a doctor, a teacher, a barber, a businessman, a wife who died trying to save her wheelchair-bound husband, who was pulled to safety by others, a Pakistani man who tried to disarm the shooter; both he and his son were killed. Many had come seeking safety in what one survivor called "a beautiful city that will rise from the dust." In the wake of their murders, stunned residents left teeming mounds of flowers throughout the city, often with signs proclaiming, "This Is Not New Zealand."

Amidst global responses came dregs of vitriol from near and far. In Australia, home to the shooter and a nativist One Nation Party that claims "anti-white racism - "It's OK To Be White" - white supremacist Senator Fraser Anning blamed dozens of innocents murdered at prayer: "The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets (is) the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate (in) the first place.” He later got egged by a teenager, who he then punched; many are calling for his expulsion. Here at home, Trump babbled Hallmark idiocies - "Best wishes. We love New Zealand!" - and at a veto "ceremony" dismissed white nationalists as "a small group," declined to use the word "Muslim" or "hatred," claimed he knew nothing of the shooter's motives though he'd praised Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity," and quickly reverted to snarling about "an invasion of drugs and criminals and people who have no idea who they are" (sic). Later, at a Cleveland vigil for the victims, Trump supporters drove a gaudy float past blaring, "Build the wall!"

But there was much good. Undaunted Muslims packed mosques, still their "place of solace and healing." People posted mournful tributes, condolences, updates and calls to all faiths to "look out for each other, love each other. END." Like many, Mehreen Faruqi, a Green senator in New South Wales originally from Pakistan, assailed the link between "this sickening, senseless violence" and those who have normalized racism and Islamophobia: "There is blood on the hands of politicians who incite hate." The Guardian ran a blistering editorial that savaged festering "politicians (who) have created the swamp for such reptiles," zeroing in on Trump and his "overt race-baiting": "Mr Trump could fill a bath with crocodile tears he has wept." And New Zealand P.M. Jacinda Ardern, with no repulsive both-sides equivocating, was furiously forthright, swiftly calling for a ban on assault weapons, lauding a nation of "diversity, kindness, compassion," and proclaiming of refugees who have chosen to make their home there, "They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence is not."

Haji-Daoud Nabi, the first victim named, had lived there from the age of six when his family fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A retired engineer and grandfather of nine, he helped found a mosque, was the head of the local Afghan association, and regularly went to the airport to greet others fleeing violence as he had. "He's helped everyone who's a refugee," said his son Omar Nabi. "Whether you’re from Palestine, Iraq, Syria - he’s been the first person to hold his hand up." When the attack came, his father would have been at his usual spot at the mosque's entrance, greeting those arriving; his last words would likely have been, as they always were, "Come in, brother." Soon after the carnage, Australian writer and television host Waleed Aly went on air. "You'll have to forgive me," he shakily told viewers. "These won't be my best words." Aly said he felt "gutted," but not shocked; too much violence had come before. He said he'd gone to the mosque that day like the victims, and knew "how quiet, how still...how profoundly defenseless" they would have been in the moment before their deaths.  And he said he knew what has to happen:

"Now, now we come together. Now we understand that this is not a game...that we are one community and that everything we say to try to tear people apart, demonize particular groups, set them against each other - that all has consequences, even if we're not the ones with our fingers on the trigger."

 

Reuters photo

AP Photo

Picking up flowers left at the mosque. AP photo

New Zealanders grieve. AAA photo

Haji-Daoud Nabi, who fled Afghanistan at six with his family for safety in New Zealand, with his granddaughter. Family photo

Mucad Ibrahmi, killed at three years old. Family photo

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