The Olive Tree

I’m glad I started my blog all those years ago, it was a kind of therapy for me to jot down my views, memories, observations and so on, after the sudden death of my father in October 2009. It also saddens me that he never got to read any of what I’ve written on here, I like to think he would have enjoyed some of it.

Sandysview, my blog continues to be a kind of therapy for me as I’ve processed the last week in New Zealand. I wrote a post last weekend on how traumatized I/we were. Completely traumatized from my privileged position on planet earth. I am a Pakeha, male westerner living in New Zealand.

Nobody has ever hissed or spat at me in the street for being a caucasian male New Zealander. I’ve never been told to go back to my own country. I’ve never had to endure racist, sexist, bigoted or xenophobic abuse. Nope, that none of those things have never happened to me.

I don’t need to remind you what happened last Friday, but it has deeply affected me, and many people I’ve spoken with since. We weren’t the ones on the receiving end of a globally significant act of terrorism. Nor was New Zealand for that matter, it just happened here because the Australian terrorist chose us to host his brutal slaughter of 50 innocent Muslims who should have been safe here.

But so very, very affected. I’ve been welling up with tears for days, as I read news stories, watched news bulletins. Watched our Prime Minister be so amazing in her response. I didn’t vote for Jacinda, but I’ve been extremely comforted by her actions and compassion, her combination of steel and support. I hope she gets the Nobel Peace Prize.

The outpouring of grief and support from New Zealanders has been heart warming.

The thanks, and open arms of the victims relatives and friends, and the global gratitude from what appears to be the vast majority of the worlds 1.5 billion Muslims, for our Prime Minister and New Zealanders has been absolutely staggering.

What has been incredibly disheartening have been the reactions of some misinformed, to be generous, ‘middle New Zealanders’ and people from other countries, about the Islamic call to prayer being broadcast on the weeks anniversary of the shooting. About the wearing of a hijab by many New Zealand women in solidarity.

I personally found the Adhan, that’s what the Islamic call to prayer is called, incredibly beautiful and haunting.

I was extremely, extremely angry about the rejection of solidarity and respect by a handful of my fellow citizens and the people from other countries, using some vague connection to New Zealand to intrude in our grief. Rejection and criticism which I had personally witnessed so I can imagine there was a reasonably large number among our society who also felt aggrieved at what they saw as the ‘Islamification’ of New Zealand, even if just for a moment. After I had finished being angry, I became sad.

I was sad because it occurred to me that people often most fear what they don’t understand.

This is what I believe, based on conversations I have had, many conversations, with many Muslims when I was in the UK. I haven’t spoken to Muslims here because they make up barely 1% of our population. So I don’t encounter or work with them as regularly as I did in the UK sadly.

For the record, I do not prescribe to religion, I do not believe in gods.

Most Muslims, the vast majority as I understand it, believe they pray to the same God as Christians. They call god, Allah, Allah is god and Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet. I’m happy to be corrected, but not one Muslim I’ve ever spoken to has said anything different.

The Islamic call to prayer goes as follows, translated into English.

Allahu Akbar
God is Great
(said four times)
Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah
I bear witness that there is no god except the One God.
(said two times)
Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
(said two times)
Hayya ‘ala-s-Salah
Hurry to the prayer (Rise up for prayer)
(said two times)
Hayya ‘ala-l-Falah
Hurry to success (Rise up for Salvation)
(said two times)
Allahu Akbar
God is Great
[said two times]
La ilaha illa Allah
There is no god except the One God

It’s not threatening is it? They are simply expressing in another language that they believe in god and that god is great.

The difference is that Muslims follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed while Christians follow the teachings of Jesus.

A sentiment most Christians would accept surely?

Sadly not. I have seen many ‘Christians’ stating that the Muslims do not worship the same god as they do. The Christians feel their god of the bible is the one and only god and will probably try to tell you that Islam was born out of paganism. Basically saying their god, who Muslims believe to be the same god, is different and superior. That is profoundly depressing.

The rights, wrongs, history, minutiae of the issue about whose god is best is not even the point here.  Muslims believe it’s the same god and that’s what matters.

That New Zealanders should feel they have something to fear from the Muslims among us is ridiculous, but they fear because they don’t understand. Your average Muslim in the street is as appalled by Militant Islamist terrorist killings of anyone, fellow Muslims or Christians, or anyone, as your average Kiwi is by a murderous Australian white supremacist terrorist gunning down innocent people.

That far too many ‘Christians’ cant tolerate a moment of solidarity with the afflicted is appalling. To criticise the rest of us choosing to be openly and nationally respectful of the Muslims as they gathered together to pray on such a significant anniversary, is mind bogglingly insular and selfish.

Instead talking about their God being superior and nobody else should be allowed to express their love of any other god as though this somehow threatens them and the fabric of our society. Frankly, you wonder what that fabric might be made of! Shame on you.

Thankfully, they are a small and unrepresentative minority.

I was reluctant at first to even articulate the intolerance, because I don’t want to seed division, but then most Muslims already know that many Christians can be intolerant dicks. They would most likely articulate it differently. That bit isn’t news.

What I have seen personally, and I have grazed an awful lot of media, social and mainstream over the past week is love, and gratitude for us, we New Zealanders and Jacinda on a monumental scale, from Muslims all over the world. It’s been incredibly moving and inspiring.

Meanwhile, I have seen much hypocrisy, selfishness, naivety, and ignorance from far too many ‘Christians’, both here and abroad. Which is disgusting and depressing.

I’m absolutely confident though, in the bigger picture as we all process this, that many people will become more inclusive and understanding. Some will continue to be dicks, but they were already and have always been dicks so really, why should we expect any different?

Why this is different though is because this is globally significant. We shouldn’t have needed such a monstrous act to force us all to look at ourselves, but here we are and much good will come out of such horror.

Not just from more tolerance, inclusion and understanding of Muslims, refugees and migrants, but of all the sidelined, marginalized, minorities or the simply different to ourselves. I have personally been intolerant of some sectors on society and a friend asked me if I planned to address that? I was actually pleased she challenged me rather than feeling hurt. That speaks volumes to me in itself, of course I will.

It’s been a very, very tough week and I wasn’t the one who was attacked. My wife has been on the other side of the world for a couple of weeks, so I’ve been doing this myself, well, me and the two furry children. It’s been hard.

But my wife is home tomorrow and it will most likely be an emotional reunion. I’m welling up as I write this. I’ll be a different person to the one she left. I’d like to think a better one.

I planted an Olive tree in our garden today. It’s going to be our tree of remembrance, a personal symbol of solidarity and respect.

Olive Tree

Finally and most importantly. These are the names of the slain. We owed them better while they were alive. We will be better. New Zealand will be a better place for those they left behind. I hope so. I believe so.

The slain

As-salāmu ʿalaykum

السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ

Peace be upon you.

It’s actually a rather beautiful greeting isn’t it?

I think I’m done now. Thank you for reading.

18 replies »

  1. Thank you Sandy … like you I cannot restrain tears each time I hear items relating to the act of evil. I stopped going to places online where people were implying it was our fault for allowing certain immigrants into our country. Ignorance in great bundles. All it did was make me angry so I don’t go there. The Prime Minister did an incredible job because she did it without any political motive.She spoke exactly as I would have expected any PM of NZ to speak, from the heart. I am pleased about the bi-partisan approach to the gun laws. How great for our politicians to do that without someone like the NRA breathing down their necks. But that just goes to show how great this country is.

  2. Beautiful words mate. Sums up how I’ve been feeling too. Not a day has gone by since that Friday that I haven’t had a tear in my eyes. Sometimes those tears were of shock at the horror. Sorrow for the fallen and injured. Pain for the families left behind. Heartbreak that it happened in what was meant to be one of the safest countries in the world. But there were also tears of absolute pride with how the country has come together and how our leader has showed the world how a humanitarian crisis should be handled. I too am disgusted at the negativity and closed mindedness of some, especially some who I considered friends, and even family. I have removed some people from facebook after seeing some posts they have shared and am now considering leaving facebook altogether. I am considering doing a blog myself similar to yours, I’m not a regular blogger but want to get my feelings out there as part of my healing process. But will need to wait until I’m not so busy and can have some quiet reflective time.

    • That’s awesome mate. Cheers for the support. It’s so very hard to process, to try and be understanding of all the points of view. But some are just so utterly hateful and ignorant. I felt I should simply ignore it. But I can’t. It’s got to be called out. Enjoy your blog, it’s a process.

  3. HI Sandy, from across the ditch, I have lived for a time in NZ, it is a wondrous place. It is most certainly not the place that could be the backdrop for such a horrendous event. I share your sadness that there are people who feel the divisions and feel threatened by them. Revenge is not a christian thing, in the land of an eye for an eye we all end blind. I share your sadness that there is not more understanding and tolerance. It is a complex world filled with different beliefs and legends to help us understand, each as valid as the next. There are greater dangers that we will face as a human race which we will need to face together.

  4. Beautiful Sandy. You’ve put into words exactly what I think but can’t articulate nearly as well as you. I can imagine how you felt with your wife overseas. When I heard of this atrocity my immediate reaction was the desire to bring my family together, hold them tight and surround them with love. Geography and time did not allow that unfortunately but we achieved what we could via phone calls and messaging.
    I am ashamed and saddened and incredulous that so many supposed Christians show so much intolerance. Surely one of the basic tenets of Christianity is love for our fellow man.
    I love your planting of the olive tree, such a fitting symbol.
    Thank you for your thoughts.

  5. Cheers Bev, I’ve long been appalled at the hypocrisy of so called Christians, I was reluctant to voice it at all. But this is my blog, it’s my place to write what I think and feel. On the positive side, this heinous act of savagery has given us all the opportunity to examine ourselves. Thank you for reading

  6. Hi Sandy it’s been ages since I last read one of your blogs but did so today. I am a white NZ lady and several years ago I personally did experience racism whilst living in England.
    I was accused of coming from a land of savages, that being a NZ person I would not know anything and because I came from NZ I must be a rugby player, and so on……I was stunned, offended, intimidated, annoyed, angry and reported the accuser, an elderly middle class white Englishman, to the agency I worked for. They told me it was racism. It was a strange feeling believe you me.

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