Syrian father and son buried in first funeral after New Zealand shooting

A total of six burials are expected to take place today.

New Zealand Mosque Shootings Mourners at the funeral of Khalid Mustafa and his son Hamza. Mark Baker / PA Images Mark Baker / PA Images / PA Images

A SYRIAN REFUGEE and his son have been buried in New Zealand in the first funerals of last week’s twin mosque attacks in Christchurch. 

Hundreds of mourners gathered in the morning at a cemetery near Linwood Mosque, one of two places of worship targeted, to lay Khalid Mustafa and his son Hamza to rest.

The family arrived last year as refugees from the Syria. Khalid (44) and Hamza (15) were shot dead on at the Al Noor Mosque, the first attack site.

Jamil El-Biza, who came from the Sydney area to attend the funerals, said at the graves of his brother and father: “I shouldn’t be standing in front of you. I should be lying beside you.”

Also attending was Abdul Aziz, an Afghan refugee who confronted the gunman at Linwood Mosque. He was embraced by many mourners.

A total of six burials are expected to take place today. 

Speaking of the Mustafa family, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “I cannot tell you how gutting it is to know that a family came here for safety and for refuge, and they should have been safe here.”

Islamic custom dictates that people have to be buried as soon as possible after death – but the scale and devastation of Friday’s massacre of 50 people in Christchurch has delayed the handover of bodies to next of kin.

Police said yesterday that just six bodies have been released so far, and a total of 12 victims identified. Waves of volunteers have driven or flown in to Christchurch to help ease the burden on exhausted locals.

“We are a Muslim community, regardless of where we are situated through the country and the world, there is always going to be a connection with other Muslims when tragedy occurs,” Javed Dadabhai, a volunteer from Auckland, told AFP.

Quite specifically, Christchurch is a small community, so… when you see a loss of 50 people, you really need to come down and help in whichever you can.

While there has been no figures on the number of volunteers who have travelled to Christchurch, large numbers have been walking in and out of a family support centre near the Al Noor Mosque where dozens were killed by a white supremacist.

Ardern said today that the world needs to confront the dangers posed by social media.

“There is an argument there to be made for us to take a united front on what is a global issue,” she said at a press conference in Christchurch.

“This is not just an issue for New Zealand, the fact that social media platforms have been used to spread violence (and) material that incites violence.”

She has also called on New Zealanders to not utter gunman Brenton Tarrant’s name. 

“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she said.

The 28-year-old was arrested after the shootings and is expected to spend his life in prison as New Zealand has no death penalty.

- © AFP, 2019

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