‘‘This is not New Zealand, this is not us.’’
They are the words Jalal Kasi, of Alexandra, uses to describe the tragedy that unfolded inside two church mosques last Friday afternoon.
Fifty people died after the accused gunman, who had been living in Dunedin since at least 2017, opened fire at Al Noor mosque, on Deans Ave, and Linwood mosque.
Mr Kasi, formerly of Pakistan, was most familiar with Al Noor mosque, where he often went to pray when he first moved to New Zealand about four years ago.
‘‘Every Friday I was there.
‘‘I knew the mosque would be full of Muslim brothers.’’
He did not know anyone who was killed, but had three friends in hospital who were recovering well, he said.
When MrKasi moved to New Zealand, he initially arrived in Christchurch where he based himself until he found work in Central Otago.
He was later joined by his wife Maria Arbab, son Roedad Kasi (9) and daughter Fatima Arbab (12).
‘‘I knew the mosque would be full of Muslim brothers.’’ – Jalal Kasi.
They are permanent residents of New Zealand and plan to become citizens next year.
‘‘Initially, I thought I would stay in Christchurch and find a job there,’’ Mr Kasi said.
However, he was offered a role as a projects engineer at the Central Otago District Council, and that led to the family settling in Alexandra, which is similar to their home of Quetta.
Alexandra and Quetta have similar summer and winter temperatures, trees and geography.
They also have the ability to grow similar fruit and vegetables.
The main difference was population size, as Quetta’s population is almost 2.1 million.
Despite last week’s events, Mr Kasi said he felt safe in New Zealand.
He always has.
‘‘We haven’t felt a single small sign of feeling unsafe or insecure.’’
‘‘They are all saying ‘this is not us — it’s not the New Zealand we know’.’’ – Jalal Kasi.
Neighbours, colleagues and the general public have always made Mr Kasi’s family feel welcome.
‘‘Everyone is so welcoming, they say ‘Hi, how are you, do you need any help, any support?’ It made travelling from our country easy.’’
That sense of love and kindness has increased over recent days, from around the country.
‘‘I’m really surprised,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s incredible. I wasn’t expecting so much from the community here and across the whole country, especially the Prime Minister. We were so happy and proud — the way she dressed, she went and said her sympathies.
‘‘This is what New Zealand is.’’
Central Otago, in particular, was a peaceful and loving community, he said.
‘‘We are thinking of it as our own home.
‘‘We are staying and we are making it our permanent home.’’
Mr Kasi attended vigils in Clyde and Queenstown over the past week and his pride in being a New Zealander has only grown.
‘‘It was so surprising, people came with such . . . harmony towards our community,’’ he said, of the vigils.
‘‘They are all saying ‘this is not us — it’s not the New Zealand we know’.’’
Mr Kasi said there was a range of ways people could help those affected by last week’s tragedy, including donating to the official sites.
One of the most effective ways to help was to pray.
‘‘Just pray for us, for all the people that are injured and are in hospital and for the families that have lost loved ones.’’
He thanked everyone from Central Otago and beyond for the support they had given the Muslim community.
‘‘It’s just so tremendous. We don’t have words to say [just how thankful we are].’’