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A tribute to the Bosnian Srebrenica Martyrs-on the arrest of Serbian General Ratko Mladic

Hena Zuberi

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Ratko Mladic was arrested in Serbia, he led the armed forces of the Bosnian Serbs during the Bosnian War. Accused of ordering Europe’s worst massacre since World War II, he was the world’s most wanted fugitive for the atrocities committed during the conflict . He faces genocide charges over the killing of about 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. After spending 16 years on the run, he was found in the village of Lazarevo, about 80km (50 miles) north of Belgrade, living under the assumed name, Milorad Komodic.

“For all those years this monster was hidden by Serbia and they knew where he was,” she said. “Now they are handing him over to justice. Well, better late than never. But I’m afraid of another trial without a verdict.” a victim who lost all her male family members in the massacre.

There may be political reasons for his capture at this time as the NYT reports Mladic Arrest Opens Door to Serbia’s Long-Sought European Union Membership. This is a blog entry at King’s Of War (Department of War Studies, King’s College London) :Mladic: the price of EU membership.

From the New YorkTimes:

With video cameras capturing the moment, Gen. Ratko Mladic‘s bodyguards handed out chocolates to Bosnian Muslim children, promising terrified women that the violence was over.“No one will be harmed,” the Bosnian Serb commander said on July 12, 1995, gently patting a young boy on the head. “You have nothing to fear. You will all be evacuated.”  As he spoke, thousands of his soldiers formed a vast cordon around the town of Srebrenica, a United Nations protected “safe area” that had just fallen to General Mladic’s forces. Over the next 10 days, his soldiers hunted down, captured and summarily executed 8,000 men and boys from the town. Women were raped. And pleas for restraint from the international community were mocked.

 

Allahum maghfir lihayyina, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidina, wa ghaa-‘ibina, wa sagheerina, wa kabeerina, wa dhakarrina wa unthana. Allahumma man ahyaitahu mina faahyihi ‘alal Islami wa man tawaf-faytahu mina fatawaffahu ‘alal imani. Allahumma la tahrima arjahu wa la tudhillana ba’dahu

This is a great historical fictional piece written by Brother Amad more than a decade ago, when the Bosnian genocide was ongoing at its apex, his comments from a post in 2008 strike harder in 2011:

We have to be mindful of  history. People don’t become animals overnight. There is a slow and systematic process of brainwashing and fear-mongering.Do we think that Serbs or the German Nazis or the Russian army in Chechnya or the Gujarati Hindus became beasts overnight? No, rather, the process of inculcating hate and bias kept on going for years, decades and eventually when the opportunity came, this hatred was unleashed. Why is this relevant? What is happening in America, in terms of Islamophobia, is not at the proportion of Nazi Germany or other centers of pre-genocide. But, it is a slow process. And we cannot let that hate reach such a boiling point, such that when there is an opportunity or an incident that sparks anti-Muslim sentiment; that this hatred isn’t suddenly unleashed upon Muslims in America. If we don’t stop this train of Islamophobia, in American, and worse in Europe, then we will be left to wonder later on what happened!!

_______________________________________

bosnia-genocide.jpgThe stars and the moon were in their hideout- the night was very dark indeed. A grim sense of fear lurked around every soul that dared to walk upon the desolated street.

He stepped out of his devastated house onto the rubble that welcomed him— the rubble that once was an attractively adorned street. A chilled, hideous wind greeted his snow—white face. He knew it, everyone did— no mortal being was safe on this hell on earth. He screwed his dark muffler over his naked ears and started to walk briskly.

The cruel silence of the darkness was brutally shattered by the familiar sound of gun shots and then a dying scream.Now him, next me- he contemplated. But this thought had long ceased to disturb him, let alone scare him. The plain truth was that there was no escape, no optimism; the future was as dead as the land beneath the remains of the shoes he was wearing. He knew one thing though— the land could become alive if there was rain. But then again, there was no rain in sight. Clouds had long forgotten the way to this forbidden land. Tears streamed out of his jaded eyes. They surprised him- he was quite sure that they too had deserted him. He wiped them off with his scarred hands.

Almost suddenly, pictures of the pre-war period flashed in front of his damp eyes:

The streets lights flashing, couples and families, hand in hand, strolling around the glittering shops with their decorated showrooms. There was no fear, a hand shake here and there, a hug, a smile, a petty argument… it was beautiful.

He smiled, then laughed and finally cried. Maybe he couldn’t recognize emotion any more, it all seemed the same now. He did recognize though that his life was a hapless journey; a trip through hell into the grapples of death and probably as futile as the dried leaf that falls down and never gets up.

The damned wind seemed to get cooler every minute. Or maybe his tattered clothes had given up on him. After all, the world had given up on his homeland. After all, the world had been reduced to being mere spectators to yet another genocide. After all, they had other more important things to deal with. After all, after all…

The man dragged on. He stumbled over dead flesh. Part of a cat lay spluttered in front of him. “Those beasts, ba**rds didn’t even leave the cat alive,” he mumbled. Of course they didn’t; cats were just animals but humans. He changed his mind…we are animals too. He kicked away the intruding creature with a loud thud. No, he wasn’t always so insensitive. He had just grown out it. In fact, he had grown out of many other feelings, too, like love for instance. They were just old traditions that everybody had to grow out of. Honestly, most already had.

Lost in paradoxical thoughts, he came across a dried up well, a preserved ‘antiquity’. He remembered how people had crowded around it, throwing away their coins, wishing for so many things. How stupid, he thought. If only they had known better, they’d spend their money elsewhere. If only it wasn’t a wishing well, if only it had some fortune in it, like oil perhaps…The thought amused him but he didn‘t smile. It just seemed so honest, so really true. He buried his eyes in his hands and went back…

It was eight in the evening and he had just come back home after a hard, laborious day. Not that he was the only one who worked hard. Back then everybody did but at least everyone was allowed to live. His wife had just cooked the daily rice and beans. Life was difficult and ends barely met. Suddenly, his daughter barged into the room and instinctively he realized how beautiful she had become- his little girl had flowered into a beautiful woman. He held her close and wept. I

t was a hard life, if only he could give his daughter more… His son followed in next and they came together for a big bear hug. This had become a daily ritual, a sort of family endearment and how sure he was that his strength lay in this. They sat down for food and gobbled down their inadequate daily rations but they were happy to be alive, to be together. No one complained and this hurt him more. Sometimes, he wished that they would argue, that they would be angry, but like his other wishes; these too vanished into thin air.

He shook his head to disperse the snow that had collected over it and wiped off his tears. Suddenly, he started running, fell down and then sprinted again. But he knew that it would catch him, it always did. Surely, the pictures swept in front of him and he became witness to yet another hallucination.

It was eight in the evening and he had just come home. He heard the sound of loud barking and before he had time to make sense of it, a sharp blow hit across his forehead and he crashed down. Adem woke up to a nightmare— only that he wasn’t sleeping. He was tied to the door. His daughter lay in the bed in front of him, she was stark naked. He closed his eyes and screamed and cried.

A tight slap hit across his face. It opened his eyes and forced him to witness. The soldier climbed into the bed, encouraged on by fits of laughter and cheers. Adem looked on in disbelief. He had stopped screaming. The man raped his daughter. She wept, begged for mercy, begged for help…The dogs had started to bark even louder and their barking seemed to be drowning her voice and her strength. Adem wished for respite, wished for death. He’d gladly accept either. Moments later, another soldier entered the scene and repeatedly raped his daughter. Adem fainted. Not much later, he was awakened by boiling water poured over his head but it didn’t hurt at all. Physical pain seemed so minute…

This time his wife was the centerpiece. Besides her lay his daughter, apparently dead. His wife was screaming too but Adem didn’t flinch, he didn’t cry. He watched quietly as his wife became another toy for the animals. Next his son was brought in. It was a procession of death and he was the chief guest. The little child’s hands were placed on the table and severed, one by one.

The child had fainted after the first blow but the savages systematically continued to mutilate him, one bit at a time. The remains of the innocent human beings were gathered and then thrown in front of the beasts’ beasts. Throughout the ordeal, Adem had fainted several times but the butchers made sure that he didn’t miss any of the action. They didn’t kill him, though. It was too easy an escape.

Adem was now screaming and hammering his head into the barren ground. He kicked, he shouted, he cried…Why couldn’t these thoughts leave him alone? He raised his hands to the heavens and begged for mercy.

The mirage of his thoughts had barely subsided when he heard Serb words behind him.

He smiled and looked back.

A shot whizzed past his ear but the second one was more accurate.

The old man fell down with a thud.

He was dead and so too seemed hope.

-By Amad Shaikh


For background information and eye-witness accounts, pls visit these links:

  1. General Information On Wikipedia on Bosnian Genocide and Srebrenica Massacre
  2. Eye-witness accounts and more on PBS
  3. Case Study: The Srebrenica Massacre
  4. Eyewitness to Gendercide: A Critical Feminist Analysis of Rape as a Tool of War in Bosnia and Rwanda
  5. Robert Fisk: Our shame over Srebrenica
  6. Memorialization of the Srebrenica Massacre (Photos)
  7. Srebrenica Survivors Sue Netherlands, United Nations
  8. Srebrenica, An Orchestrated Tragedy (a Documentary)
  9. Genocid.org (Tons of information and photos)

 

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Amad

    Amad

    May 26, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Alhamdulilah for the capture of the butcher

    Lives he took will never be returned.

    But at least families will have an opportunity to see justice take place.

    • Avatar

      Hamida

      May 27, 2011 at 8:32 PM

      Yes, they have captured the monster whose name I choose not to mention here, BUT will this serve us justice?? When you are conscious that he has been freely having a normal life all these years, while the bones of the innocent lay scattered over numerous mass graves, makes me nothing else but SICK! Those lost won’t be brought back to life and that’s for sure but how just his trial will turn out is uncertain!!! Now that he is captured he will be treated right – he will have his meals on time, he will have dental services, medical services and no one will touch him so he will be treated like a king in prison…

      I am just so upset that this is all the justice we get… its heartbreaking.. and no punishment this world could bring would even begin to touch the sides of what he deserves. I usually bury my head in the sand when these monsters are captured because I know that I’ll just be dissapointed and upset by the trial, comments, his treatment, his denial etc etc etc, not worth it…. We all know what he did… and his real punishment awaits him after this life

    • Avatar

      Tariq Nisar Ahmed

      May 28, 2011 at 4:07 AM

      No matter what happens or does not happen, every single victim will witness when Allah calls the murderers and rapists to account.

      Justice that Day will fully satisfy and will be complete.

      So much so that even a perpetrator of genocide could attain pardon in the next life by submitting fully and sincerely to Allah in this life. And while such a pardon in this life would leave victims in pain, it is easy for Allah to pardon the worst sin while more than making whole every victim. SubhanAllah. When one appreciates what Allah offers, it is only amazing that Hell will have so much fuel.

  2. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    May 27, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    May Allah exact retribution from those beasts.

    SubhanAllah Amad Bhai, your piece left my eyes welled with tears, an infinitesimal fraction of what the victims endured. May Allah grant them Sabr and grant Jannah to those who were killed.

    Shaykh Yaser Birjas would have tons of memories from that place…

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 27, 2011 at 6:00 AM

      Yes, indeed Sh. Yaser has lots of memories…

    • Avatar

      Mirza Shahebaz Baig

      May 27, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      Bismillah.

      Those were some tearful stories we heard from Shaykh Yaser during his stay in the balcons as youth instructor. Allahul Musta’an. Appreciate Allah’s bounties more that he kept us in such comfort than what people around the world had to go through. TO each his/her own and Allah does not test anyone beyond their limits.

      I was told of a couple of men I know mash Allah were able to go to Bosnia with the intention of help the victims during the war. Alhamdulillah, one was able to host some refugees for few days and the other mash Allah was able to support one single mother by marrying her. may Allah bless their families with abundance good. Ameen.

      Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi rajioon.

  3. Avatar

    UmmSarah

    May 27, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    In one of his lectures, Ustad Nouman Ali Khan makes a great point; a guy who kills one person and one who kills thousands are given the same punishment. Is that justice?
    True justice only belongs to Allah SW. By the time this guy is served death penalty (which I doubt he would) he’d already lived his life and was going to die anyways.

  4. Avatar

    F

    May 27, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Alhumdulillah for this capture. May he get the worst of punishments in this life and the next for his actions.

  5. Avatar

    Hena Zuberi

    May 27, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    One of my students asked me why they had never heard of his name? A man who was responsible for killing so many humans- (he is a freshman in high school), yet OBL is a household name all over the world.

    From a piece by Greenwald in Salon-
    The NYT says that, for Europe, Mladic’s arrest “has a resonance on the magnitude of the killing of Osama bin Laden for Americans.” That’s understandable, as the crimes of which Mladic is accused are at least as grave and serious as those bin Laden allegedly committed. Mladic is almost certainly responsible for more deaths than the Al Qaeda leader was. There is probably less doubt about his guilt worldwide than there was (and is) about bin Laden’s. And when he was found, Mladic “had two pistols with him” (though “he made no attempt to use” them).

    In light of all that, what’s the point of arresting Mladic and putting him on trial? Why is that considered “bringing him to justice”? Why not just pump his skull full of bullets and dump his corpse into the ocean, and then proclaim that “justice has been done”?

  6. Avatar

    kishwar

    May 27, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    its so hard to even imagine the horrible things that had happened with all our muslim brothers and sisters there. But for sure Allah is Just and He is the Witness to all evil that these hounds committed. May ALlah disgrace them, may Allah avenge them for every bit of injustice that they committed. May we witness all of these criminals burning in Hell.
    the article was heart breaking, it has left me depressed and absolutely speechless…..thanks for sharing though.

  7. Avatar

    Carlos

    May 27, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Glad that jerk has been caught.

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#Current Affairs

Allah’s Will and Our Responsibility: Responding To Forest Fires

Abu Ryan Dardir

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Forest Fires

What do Indonesia, Greenland, Brazil, Siberia, Turkey, Bolivia, The Canary Islands, and The Congo, have in common? They are losing their forests due to wildfires, commonly known as forest fires.

The image above is not an image of city lights at night.

It represents wildfires that happened around the world in July of 2019. The purpose of this article is to clarify misconceptions, provide the facts, and suggest possible solutions. Despite media coverage, forest fires are not typically bad. If you remember back to your Biology class in High School, a forest fire can be part of secondary succession. It plays a role in our environment. Forest fires stimulate new growth, and it opens up the canopy allowing sunlight to hit the forest floor. Forest fires also release nutrients trapped in the forest floor. Currently, we have reached a state of panic and misinformation. High profile social media accounts have been sharing pictures and information that is not accurate in time and location. These only fuels fear and doubt, and like anything on the media, you need to fact check.

While it is true that the Amazon forest is experiencing a more significant number of fires this year than last, the pattern isn’t necessarily abnormal on a global scale. In 2015 we experienced 4.7 million forest fires globally, and that number has been steadily decreasing every year since. To date, we have experienced 2.9 million forest fires in 2019. From 2003 to 2008 we averaged 5 million forest fires annually.

Forest Fires data

Right now, we are at the average number of forest fires we would be experiencing in August, based on 20 years of data. While the media is focusing on Brazil, Brazil ranks number 5 in the number of forest fires in the last year. The Congo has ranked number 1 for several years now in regards to forest fires. The Congo loses about 1% of their forest annually to wildfires, and Brazil about 0.15% of their forest. Either way, these are huge losses. Our brothers and sisters in Indonesia are suffering as well, including some critically endangered species.

What is causing this? Nothing happens without the will of Allah ﷻ. In Surat Yusuf, verse 21 Allah ﷻ says “The Will of God prevails, but most of the people know not”

In a narration, we hear the Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminding us of the above verse.

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: “كُنْت خَلْفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَوْمًا، فَقَالَ: يَا غُلَامِ! إنِّي أُعَلِّمُك كَلِمَاتٍ: احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْك، احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَك، إذَا سَأَلْت فَاسْأَلْ اللَّهَ، وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْت فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاَللَّهِ، وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْأُمَّةَ لَوْ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَك، وَإِنْ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْك؛ رُفِعَتْ الْأَقْلَامُ، وَجَفَّتْ الصُّحُفُ”. رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ

Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)  reports:

“One day I was riding (a horse/camel) behind the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, ‘Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.'” Related by Tirmidhi

There is a sense of freedom through the reliance of Allah ﷻ.

But Allah ﷻ has given us a responsibility, an amanah.

وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَائِفَ الْأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“And it is He (God) who has made you successors (Khalifa) upon the Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’am:165]

I worry the world is neglecting that responsibility, and taking the Earth for granted. Not only are we neglecting this responsibility, but we are also exploiting what Allah ﷻ gave us.

“Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Qur’an, 2:60)

We are in a state of a “climate crisis,” yet we have not taken the proper steps to address it. We worry about the world that our children will inherit, but lack the passion for doing something about it.

A lot of it is at the government level. The Green New Deal failed and living in a plutocracy, and it may not come to fruition. Capitalism that fuels our consumeristic manners only speed up this destruction we are inflicting on ourselves. The solutions are simple and need to come from the community and work outward. We see the forests of the world burning, are we going to sit and watch the world burn, or will we implement the words of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)? Our Prophet Muhammad said: “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

عَنْ أَنَسٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَغْرِسُ غَرْسًا أَوْ يَزْرَعُ زَرْعًا فَيَأْكُلُ مِنْهُ إِنْسَانٌ أَوْ طَيْرٌ أَوْ بَهِيمَةٌ إِلاَّ كَانَتْ لَهُ صَدَقَةٌ ‏”

If the Forest Burns, We Plant More Trees

If the forests burn, we plant more trees; this gives us sadaqah jariyah (continous reward), and allows us to fulfill our obligation as stewards of this planet. Countries with much fewer resources are doing it, and so can you. The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Its foundation is in the Sahel the southeastern part of the Sahara. That part of the world is on the frontline of climate change, and the people are changing their ways to address it.

As Brazil loses 0.15% of forest due to fires, India has increased its forestry by 1% in two years. There is no doubt that capitalism plays a role, and we play a role in capitalism, and instead of being blind consumers, we can be informed consumers. Your dollar forces companies to make choices that can be better for the planet. It is essential to be cautious of your purchases and the role that the company plays in our delicate ecosystems. Three significant regions are suffering tremendously due to forest fires. The Congo, Brazil, and Indonesia, each has its unique part in our capitalistic lives.

Cells for Congo

Mining to get rare earth metals comes from the Congo; mining requires deforestation to reach the resources needed. These “rare earth” metals are used by anyone that has a cell phone, laptop, computer, etc. One thing we can do not to be part of the problem is to find more ethical companies in regards to technology usage.

Investigate for Indonesia

Next is Indonesia, and it is notorious for having corporations burn its trees down for palm oil. Palm oil is an ingredient found in many processed foods, cosmetics, and toiletries. It’s said that the equivalent of 300 soccer fields of rainforest is cleared every hour for the production of palm oil worldwide. Palm oil can be produced in a responsible manner that respects the environment and the communities where it is commonly grown. Find no palm oil alternatives here. Look for the RSPO label to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. This label gives you the confidence that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Beefless for Brazil

Then there is Brazil the largest exporter of beef in the world. Cows are not small or cheap. They use a lot of water and resources to accommodate a growing demand for meat. One pound of beef uses 1800 gallons of water; this includes the water it drinks and the water used for its food. Add the amount of space needed, and one can’t help but think if beef is worth it.

These three very sought out resources and luxuries increase profits for the corporation for companies like Google, Samsung, Sony, Apple, Nestle, Kelloggs, General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive, and the beef industry supported by the populist Brazilian President. One can’t help but think that some of these fires are not naturally occurring. There is enough by the greed and selfishness by those that can impose their power on other people and our planet to fuel these fires. Use your dollar wisely, and voice your concern to any corporation that exploits the resources that Allah ﷻ bestowed upon us.

I want to conclude with a hadith that should make us respond to the loss of our forests. Planting trees and preserving what we have is so crucial that Anas Ibn Malik is said to have reported: that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” [Ahmad]

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ‏:‏ إِنْ قَامَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَفِي يَدِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَسِيلَةٌ، فَإِنِ اسْتَطَاعَ أَنْ لاَ تَقُومَ حَتَّى يَغْرِسَهَا فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا‏.

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#Current Affairs

My Heart Shook In New Zealand

Mohsin Ansari

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One would imagine that a person would be dead-tired and ready to crash in his bed after a grueling, 36-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Washington, DC. And I will admit, that was the way I felt. Yet somehow, all my somnolence vanished as soon as my head rested on my pillow and I closed my eyes to rest. A wave of recollections fell over me: memories of the survivors, the emotions they expressed, and their feelings of an uncertain future as they planned their lives after the loss of their family members. These feelings instantly took away all the desire to get rest and sleep. I sit upright now and begin writing this reflection of a once in a lifetime experience- a voyage of grief and hope to Aotearoa- land of the white cloud as the indigenous people call New Zealand.

With lost baggage, long flights and too many connections, at times it seemed unlikely that my eldest son Moaz and I would make it to Jumm’ah and Janazah prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. But Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepted our prayers so that we could fulfill the guidelines set by our beloved, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). We were able to fulfill one of the rights of a Muslim over the others; that when he is sick visit him, and when she dies, offer her funeral and be part of her burial.

Hagley Cricket Ground was supposed to have a cricket test match between Bangladesh and New Zealand that Friday. Commentators reckon that it would have been the final day of that test match. But the 22nd of March 2019, brought a much bigger crowd to this world-famous cricket ground than what anyone would have seen on the final day of that test match.

Officials and security directed us towards the VIP area as they wanted to pay respect to the guests who traveled all the way from the USA, Canada, and Australia. The environment of love, solidarity, and respect, coupled with the hijab-clad women standing in solidarity with Muslims in that enormous crowd, created an impact which cannot be articulated by mere words. Every single uniformed female officer was carrying their firearm while donning a hijab; creating a welcoming gesture in a rather somber and gloomy atmosphere.

I do not have the words to thank the leadership of Charity Australia and the Islamic Forum of Australian Muslims (IFAM) for providing us with logistics, facilitating meeting the families of the “shuhudaa” (martyrs) and arranging to visit those injured in the tragedy. ICNA, Helping Hand, and Charity Australia banners highlighting the slogans of “American Muslims stand in solidarity with Victims of Christchurch New Zealand” were the center of attention for thousands of local New Zealanders gathered in solidarity that day. Their hugs, sincere prayers and tearful eyes were the greatest gift that I want to share with everyone reading these reflections.

Right after Jumm’ah, the majority of the crowd attended the collective Janazah prayer of 27 of the martyrs. In those emotional moments, I met with the most courageous woman on earth, the wife of 51-year-old Shaheed Naeem and the mother of 21-year-old Talha Naeem, the two spirited souls who gave their lives to save others in the mosque that day. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She mentioned that her husband, Naeem, was a person who lived the life of a man of service, always ready to help others. She described Talha as an angel who was too pious and too noble to be away from Jannah too long. We heard similar feelings from Naeem’s mother (grandmother of Talha) the next day when we visited their home.

The visit to the home of New Zealand’s national soccer team player, Atta Elayyan (33), was not only emotional but also deeply inspiring. Atta lost his life and his father (the founder of Al-Noor Masjid) was severely injured during this brutal and hateful attack. There were several scholars from the United States, including Sheikh Omer Suleiman, in the visit to Atta’s home. We could offer nothing to console the brave mother of this shaheed, who greeted us with words of courage and wisdom. We had no words to accompany the tears in our eyes, except prayers for the most noble young man who helped so many in coming close to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Our visits to Al-Noor Masjid and the Linwood Islamic Center were also filled with memories of love, harmony, and reverence. There was a continuous influx of hundreds of visitors, not only from New Zealand, but also from different countries including, but not limited to, Australia, Fiji, and Canada.  Thousands and thousands of flower bouquets and other items of love were left by these visitors. I was really thrilled to see that local Muslims left many Qur’ans and flyers with basic concepts of Islam and addressing the common misconceptions about Islam for those visiting. I witnessed many people visiting these mosques were taking those Qur’ans and other books with them in order to learn more about Islam.

We also met Mr. Aziz, the unsung hero who repeatedly attacked the killer with different objects including an empty gun —which the killer had discarded. The terrorist fired on Aziz multiple times, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) not only saved him, but he also forced the killer to flee from the Linwood Islamic Center. Mr. Aziz was one of the reasons why the number of casualties in this mosque was only seven, compared to the 43 martyrs in Masjid Al-Noor. We also met certain individuals whom Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) saved miraculously. A young man showed his trousers fenestrated with holes of bullets but had no signs of injury. The husband and wife who entered the premises of the mosque and only to be showered with a burst of 26 bullets while in their car, leaving it completely destroyed. Yet Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) saved both of them while they took shelter in their vehicle.

The visit to the hospital’s ICU was simply heartbreaking but at the same time increased our resolve and commitment to help these families as much as possible. We encountered a Turkish brother who was in a coma for nine days and met his elderly parents, who spoke to us in the very little English they knew. The only thing which we could understand from their hushed voices was the request for du’a and tears of helplessness in their eyes. The 71-year-old father of a local Pakistani from Hafizabad, who had arrived two weeks ago to visit his son, was now on a ventilator fighting for his life. As a physician who has worked in ICU settings for a long time, I simply did not have enough medical reasoning which could have provided him any words of hope!! Similarly, I was not able to provide any glimmer of hope to a brother from Bangladesh whose wife will never be able to walk again and will be paralyzed for the rest of her life.

While I saw hope and felt resilience from every victim in that hospital, this hospital visit was brutally heartbreaking.

Lastly, I cannot imagine the pain, agony, and helplessness that the father of Mucad Ibrahim must feel after losing his 3-year-old son in his own arms. I gave him the longest hug possible, as he taught the whole world the meaning of Beautiful Sabr (Patience).

After seeing the devastation caused by the terrorist attack, and the work that must still be done to heal the community, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief Canada, and Charity Australia have formed an organization called the “Christchurch Family Support Network”. The operations have already begun, and our team is on the ground. The first group of mental health professionals with a background in Islamic Integrated counseling are set to leave to provide victims and their families immediate psychological assistance.

We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to accept our work, bring healing to the community, protect our brothers and sisters, and accept the shuhadaa’ in the highest level of Paradise.

Dr. Mohsin Ansari is the Vice President Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Chairman of Helping Hand USA (HHRD)

 

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Because Muslims Matter | Honoring The Martyrs Of #Christchurch

Hena Zuberi

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As the days go by, it is easy to forget the names and faces of the people who passed away. The horror of the act eclipses their memories. We do not want that to happen to our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.

اللهُـمِّ اغْفِـرْ لِحَيِّـنا وَمَيِّتِـنا وَشـاهِدِنا ، وَغائِبِـنا ، وَصَغيـرِنا وَكَبيـرِنا ، وَذَكَـرِنا وَأُنْثـانا. اللهُـمِّ مَنْ أَحْيَيْـتَهُ مِنّا فَأَحْيِـهِ عَلى الإِسْلام ،وَمَنْ تَوَفَّـيْتَهُ مِنّا فَتَوَفَّـهُ عَلى الإِيـمان ، اللهُـمِّ لا تَحْـرِمْنـا أَجْـرَه ، وَلا تُضِـلَّنا بَعْـدَه

Allaahum-maghfir lihayyinaa, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidinaa, wa ghaa’ibinaa, wa sagheerinaa wa kabeerinaa, wa thakarinaa wa ‘unthaanaa..

O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk… [7]

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