Viewport width =
March 26, 2019 | by  | in Features Homepage Splash | [ssba]

In NZ.

When my mother gave me my name, it was a name she couldn’t pronounce. The harsh accents of the Arabic language eluded the Pākehā tongue. Growing up, I always felt more comfortable introducing myself as she knew me—Mah-dee or Ma-ha-dee—just about anything that made me feel like I belonged to this country more than my name would indicate.


My dad objected to me using my last name of Osman (عثمان) when sending job applications, out of fear that employers would have another reason to shun me in addition to the colour of my skin.


Despite my objections, I really felt I got where he was coming from. Fleeing our native Somali peninsula with six of my siblings on his back meant he knew all too well the consequences of man’s politics of division. The kind of power our names, beliefs, and appearances can have over our day-to-day lives.


And so from birth, I was caught between this sort of dual identity. Who I felt I truly was (Muslim, Somali), and who I felt I needed to be in order to feel secure: elusively ‘Kiwi’—at least just enough to pass.


That culture of fear shapes the lives of millions of Muslims growing up in White society. It decided where I’d spend my schooling, after a Lebanese sister who taught at my primary school warned of how her husband had suffered intense racial discrimination at Scots.


Tasks as simple as deciding how I want to get home became a question of life or death, after finding out my brothers and cousins had been chased and beaten by skinheads walking home through Berhampore.


That’s why when our brothers and sisters in Christchurch died during the Friday congregation, I didn’t feel so much surprised as I did sickly validated.


I never had to ask myself how this could happen “in my NZ”, as so many members of White New Zealand seem to be asking themselves right now. Because for me, my family, and my friends, this has always been an ever-looming threat.


Ever since my brothers got pulled from class after being racially abused after the 9/11 attacks, ever since my family home got “ISIS” tagged on our front door in 2015, we’ve known that racism and xenophobia aren’t simply American issues.


That’s why it’s so frustrating to hear again and again, “in NZ? Here of all places?” from friends, all the way to mayors and MPs. As if to softly insinuate that we’re above the sort of sickly discrimination that people of colour have endured ever since this young nation was raided in the name of empire.


There needs to be a clear distinction between being shocked by the violence of it all (which is justified) and being shocked by the traditions of white supremacy that underpinned this massacre— is, at best, naive.


People of colour have always been known to be weary of Christchurch; it’s the town the “Pakeha Party” and the skinheads call home. What’s a quaint home to some has been a bastion of hate to others.


That same veil of privilege that white New Zealand continues to hold drawn over their eyes helps them easily forget NZ First’s calls to ban Muslim men from flying Air New Zealand a mere five years ago.


“In NZ?” seems to suggest that this country’s success isn’t underpinned by a long history of violent white entitlement. As if those mass murders and displacements of our native people belong to an alternate history, as though the persecution of black and brown people is something alien to our nation, unheard of. Only now, in the blinding bright horror of mass murder are we forced to question these bull narratives of ‘racial harmony’.


If you continue to ask how could this happen “here of all places” then let me tell you: Your indifference to the plight of Muslims here and overseas meant this guy could freely express his hate and walk right onto our soil unquestioned. Your jihadi jokes and crap cosplays designed to demean the same people you’re eager to call mates only fanned the flames.


All this fosters an environment where violent acts of white supremacy can and will take place.


Going forward, I don’t want to hear “how could this happen to us”; it’s been happening. Empathise with your Muslim whānau, hear our stories, break bread with us this Ramadan; make a conscious effort to see us, and recognise our right to be seen.


Rather than offering sympathetic condolences, challenge the racial bias that promotes white supremacy. See us through the constant clutter of trauma porn and media hype. Read on the dawn raids and land wars. Immerse yourself in our country’s dark histories of oppression. Remember those that died; etch their legacy into your heart. This is the New Zealand that we know, but it doesn’t have to be.


^“And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision” Quran (3:169)^




About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required