New Zealand’s response to the attacks has been commendable
If on last Thursday someone said Bangladesh national cricket team players touring in New Zealand were under a security threat, especially the one related with terrorism, most of the people would find the comment ridiculous, or at least too cynical.
New Zealand is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. According to the Legatum Prosperity Index, which measures wealth, economic growth, education, health, personal well-being, and quality of life, New Zealand ranked second just behind Norway.
In the cricketing globe, New Zealand is by far the most tranquil, scenic, and most importantly, most friendly nation. Every visiting team showers with praise the hospitality and easygoing life of Kiwis, unlike their neighbour Australia.
The disciplinary records of Kiwi cricketers are also best among all the Test playing nations. They are most amicable on and off the field and their people follow the suit.
One of the most common scenes during a Test match at a New Zealand ground is people enjoying the match sitting on the open grass. Often they are in the picnic mood, and unlike many jingoist cricket fans they appreciate the good shows of home and abroad teams alike.
This is the character of this fantastic nation with a population of around five million, but their heart is as big as its vast area with pristine nature.
It is true that Europeans conquered the land and vanquished the indigenous people, but, unlike many other instances like North America and Australia where they were annihilated, modern New Zealand acknowledges the Maori people and recognizes the language as an official one.
That symbolizes the mindset of the people of this country that sustains peaceful co-existence of numerous beliefs and cultures.
No wonder, the country has been the most cherished destination for cricketers around the world to visit, and the fear of attacks remains the least in that safe haven.
But that all changed on a tragic Friday, when some terrorists, ignited by white supremacy, carried out a heinous attack to kill around 50 Muslims in two mosques at Christchurch, one of the major cities of the country.
The people of Bangladesh woke up that Friday with the news of that harrowing ordeal, but they breathed a big sigh of relief amid the carnage, as their national cricketers were spared from the attack just by seconds with sheer luck.
The Tigers were supposed to join the Friday congregation at Al-Noor Mosque, which observed the worst hate-crime in the history of New Zealand, but they arrived there just after the massacre, and could return back to safety with profound fear and trauma.
It was later known that they were not provided with any security personnel, and amid that horrific situation, the players were rescued thanks to a woman who alerted them of not entering the mosque and three Bangladeshi journalists guided them to safety. It was also known that the police arrived after 20 minutes, and many thought they were very slow to react in that grave situation.
That news created wrath among Tigers fans along with the grief of that great loss, where at least three Bangladeshi were murdered, and they questioned the efficacy and lack of sincerity on the part of New Zealand authority.
The exasperation was justified, as foreign teams over the years get optimum security during their Bangladesh tour, and a few teams even asked for that sort of arrangements as a pre-requisite to their visit to Bangladesh.
Many even doubted the role of the country in the face of an attack by white supremacy over Muslim people, as many Western countries and media are often reluctant to describe the heinous crime as terrorism, and they often term the attackers as “lone wolf,” “mentally unstable.” And many believe this sort of presentation is a brazen attempt at diluting crimes against Muslims.
But New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern clearly labelled the crime as terrorism, and the whole country showed utmost solidarity with the Muslim community. The 39-year-old lady passionately went to them wearing Muslim outfits and hugged them to provide solace.
More importantly, the people of New Zealand were united against terrorism. It was seen that the non-Muslim people were creating human shields in front of the mosque to protect their Muslim brethren during prayer. It was even reported that neighbours of scared Muslims were helping them in every possible way, like bringing their groceries. We have seen some passionate tweets from celebrities and some wonderful gestures of compassion.
The reaction of New Zealand is commendable, and the effect is even greater, as other Western media, who seemed to scapegoat Muslims, are now speaking out against the hate crime that targeted Muslims.
That is a big step to combat all sorts of hate crimes, and New Zealand is creating a perfect example.
One may argue that the lacklustre security deserves harsh criticism. But we must consider that the peaceful country was not ready for it. Were we ready before the horrible incident at Holey Artisan? Things have changed drastically in our country since then.
We should also keep in our mind that the New Zealand cricket team escaped from terrorist attacks as many as three times: First in 1987 in Sri Lanka, then five years later in the same country, and then in Pakistan in 2002. But they never complained too much about security whenever they toured Bangladesh as they believe in cricketing fraternity over the fear of terrorism.
Surely, the setback will also alter the mindset of New Zealand authority, as they will be more aware from now on.
But we have to keep in mind that their loss is huge, as their well-earned reputation as a peaceful nation has taken a hit.
And despite the loss, they are not trying to play the wicked game of victim-blaming by concealing or twisting the facts. They are showing the way of compassion.
So, it is our duty now to stand with them, rather than condemning them for being not so efficient with security. Let Bangladesh become friendlier than ever to this fantastic nation in pursuit of eradicating all the hatred and malice.
Syed Faiz Ahmed is a journalist at the Dhaka Tribune.