A week after one of the deadliest mass shootings in New Zealand history, Muslims are still struggling with the loss of 50 lives and many more injured after a gunman targeted two mosques in Christchurch on March 15.
For EC sophomore Nazia Khan, who lost her cousin, Mohammed Imran Khan in the mosque shooting, the pain is still here. Now. And maybe forever.
“I thought anything could happen in my family like a disease or something, but this never crossed my mind,” said Khan. “I never imagined something like this could happen to my family.”
The 28 year old Australian man accused of perpetrating the deadly attack faces 50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges, according to New Zealand police. In her address to Parliament, the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern refused to use the suspect’s name and deemed him as a “terrorist”.
On that fateful day, Khan was lying on her bed with her laptop when a news notification for the Christchurch shooting popped up.
“I was like, my cousin lives there. I don’t know how big the town is or which area in the town he lived, but I told my mom immediately and she called my aunt to check up on him.”
For the first few hours, Khan and her family did not know if her cousin was part of the shooting until they spoke to the friend he attended the Friday prayer with.
“He said it doesn't look good, he was one of the first people to get shot in the smaller mosque and how he got shot in the head,” she said, her voice wavering. “He said ‘I dont think hes going to make it or anything.’”
But because their relative left his phone and ID in his car before going to prayer, the Khan family did not have official confirmation about his condition or knowledge about his whereabouts.
“There were videos taken after the shooting occurred and we saw him there slumped, and my mom was like ‘that’s him’,” explained Khan.
“It's one thing to I guess just die and not have it be so public, it's another to have your family members see you like that,” she said.
EC Muslim Student Association (MSA) president Obaidullah Kholwadia, who like all Muslims, was outraged that the attack happened in a mosque, a place that is ordinarily a safe haven.
“As a Muslim you don’t walk into a mosque thinking you won’t walk out,” said Kholwadia in an email interview with The Leader. “You walk in with a sense of relaxation and ease.”
MSA had a discussion about the tragedy on March 19 open to public, in which students, staff members, and President Troy VanAken attended.
In a note from Student Government Association (SGA), Senator for Diversity and Inclusion Natalie Barnes said, “As an Elmhurst College community we are here to support you and the value you bring to campus.”
For Khan, the pain of this tragedy is something that will stay with her forever.
“I think if people could just understand how hard it is to be Muslim and understand the impact of this tragedy,” said Khan.
She added that when her dad and brother left to pray the next Friday, she told them to text her when they leave.
“I told them to text me because that’s my fear, you don’t know when is your last goodbye, your last ‘I love you’,” Khan said with tears in her eyes.
Despite the tragedy, she still hopes things will get better for Muslims.
““I want people to know about this tragedy,” said Khan. “I don’t want them to ever forget this. I am hopeful because I know there are good people in the world.”