A year has passed since a right-wing nut-job shot up a couple of mosques here in Christchurch, and killed fifty-one people at their Friday prayers. He shot down unarmed, unsuspecting people with a military-style automatic weapon, and live-streamed it. Before the video got taken down from the internet by the lumbering internet giants, giving it time to being copied and shared, it was probably seen by millions of people around the world. Even so, the nut-job, whose name we don’t mention here in New Zealand, was probably hoping for a lot more fame than that.
A combination of being in the right place at the right time, and outstanding courage, saw a couple of police officers ram the nut-job’s car, and drag him out of it twenty minutes after the shooting. Mr nut-job was on his way to do over yet another mosque, but got thwarted en-route, and summarily nicked. However, he had still done an obscene amount of damage, and ruined untold lives – and for that rotting in hell is too good for him. Seeing as we can’t send him to hell at the moment, although I’m sure attempts will be made, he will rot in jail for the rest of his life. At some stage, though, I’m betting there will be a book about it all. Humans love that dark shit.
Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, however, is a smart woman, and refused to give the nut-job the fame he would have been craving at the time, and wouldn’t let his name pass her lips. The media followed suit, and although I did hear his name mentioned initially, I don’t remember it now, and won’t look it up. He’s been ghosted. There was no more dicking around with lenient gun laws after that, either, and military-style automatic weapons that could be modified got banned almost as fast as Jacinda could ask someone to hold her baby, so she could sign off on it. That last bit didn’t really happen, I confess, as Jacinda’s fiancé looks after the baby. There’s still an element here in New Zealand who are sore about it – the big-gun ban, that is, but maybe the other, as well. Seriously, though, what civilian needs an automatic weapon that can fire fifty rounds at a time? (And what father can’t look after a baby?)
To say that this terrorist’s savagery shook New Zealand up is an understatement. We were traumatised! We’re not perfect here, we bicker and squabble, and we have racism and sexism and other ‘isms. But we’re a small nation of just five million people in the last outpost before falling off the edge of the world, and we kind of got used to these things happening elsewhere. Looks like those days are gone.
Today, there was going to be a one-year anniversary commemoration event held, but coronavirus put paid to that, and it got cancelled at the eleventh hour. I didn’t have plans to attend, but I felt for those who needed it, and were now unable to have it. I don’t know why commemorations are important, but when we’re still healing from a loss, somehow they just are.
I decided to do a wander around in the central city, anyway, to check out the mood. Everything seemed fairly normal, but then we don’t go around tearing at our clothes and hair in grief, anyway. Our predominantly British-copied culture doesn’t do that. Then wouldn’t you know it – I found myself in the vicinity of my favourite bookshop, Scorpio Books. What a happy coincidence! Seeing as I was there, I went in just have a look.
Maybe it was the day, but when I spied a book called ‘It’s Not About the Burqa’, it called to me. To give you an idea of what a biggie this is for me, I very much don’t like burqas and hijabs. I know that some women have changed the narrative around them, to fit with their personal choice to wear them, but to me they remain the symbols of oppression they began life as, and remain for many Muslim women. When I saw the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, wearing a hijab when meeting with mosque-shooting victims, their families, and their communities, I was in two minds about it. I understood that it was her way of showing respect and compassion, but there are many Muslim women who don’t wear a hijab. Mostly, though, I am at peace with her kind gesture.
I’m not being disrespectful, when I say I don’t like burqas and hijabs – which I feel obligated to explain, because, you know …… feelings – as I don’t dislike the women who wear them, I just intensely dislike the objects and what they represent to me. Flicking through this book, however, the author, Mariam Khan, sounds like she’s got a bit of fire in her belly, as do the women she writes about, and that I DO like. I expect I will find it both uncomfortable and eye-opening, and maybe dangerously mind-changing, too. Just how a good book should be, really.
Header drawing by Ruby Jones.