WELLINGTON: “Hello brother.” The warm-hearted words an elderly Muslim reportedly used to greet a white supremacist gunman have become Christchurch’s answer to his volley of hate.
Mohemmed Daoud Nabi, a 71-year-old from war-torn Afghanistan, was buried on Thursday. But his supposed final words echo across this broken New Zealand city.
The gunman’s footage showed Nabi offering a welcome at the doors of the Al Noor mosque. He was shot and the killer moved inside.
Initial reports indicated Nabi’s remark was “hello brother”, a fraternal greeting that could not contrast more starkly with the bile spewed about “invaders” by alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant.
The words are indistinct but it is a message that has resonated widely, including for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
“His welcome tells us so much –- that he was a member of a faith that welcomed all its members, that showed openness, and care,” Ardern said.
The phrase has since appeared across Christchurch and New Zealand — scribbled on police cordons that flutter in the wind, Tweeted from around the world and written on placards held by mourners at his funeral.
Kawthar Abulaban was praying in the women’s section of the Al Noor mosque when the attack began.
The first shots she heard would have been the ones that felled Nabi.
She believes he has left a legacy, a powerful vocal rebuke to hatred and extremist ideologies.
“This message will tell all of the world what the Muslim people are, how we treat other people, how we care about them, how we want to live in peace together,” the 54-year-old told AFP from the home she shares with her two daughters on the outskirts of Christchurch.
She was not in the least bit surprised the gunman was welcomed on arrival — the Al Noor mosque regularly held open days.
During Christchurch’s deadly earthquakes eight years ago, the mosque opened its doors to survivors and those without shelter.
Sara Mousa, who arrived in New Zealand from Egypt three years ago, was walking in the park opposite Al Nour with her eight-year-old son Malek, who sports a Kiwi accent.
She said everyone in Christchurch’s close Muslim community now knew the phrase “Hello brother”.
“It was so kind of him, he had a lot of mercy and love, no hatred. Even if he is holding a gun towards him and wants to kill him, he is welcoming him,” she said.
The phrase has been repeated thousands of times on social media, appearing in cartoons and on tributes left with the growing walls of flowers in Christchurch.
One note tied to a tree in the city read: “This greeting was made by a pure soul with a peaceful faith as a rifle was pointed at him… Let us remember his love and be like him.”