Edmonton niece of man who died trying to tackle New Zealand mosque shooter remembers his ‘humbleness’

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Edmonton niece of man who died trying to tackle New Zealand mosque shooter remembers his ‘humbleness’


EDMONTON—Sitting 13,000 kilometres away from Friday’s Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings, Chand Gul felt the pain of the tragedy all the same.

Gul, an Edmonton mother of three who is originally from Pakistan, lost her uncle and her cousin in last week’s attacks on two New Zealand mosques, which claimed the lives of 51 people. Among the victims were Naeem Rashid, 50, and his son Talha Rashid, 21, who Gul remembered fondly as gentlemen who loved helping others in their community.

New Zealand mosque shooting victim Naeem Rashid, 50, has been hailed as a hero by the Pakistani government for trying to stop the shooter during Friday’s attack. His niece, who lives in Edmonton, remembers him for his “humbleness.”
New Zealand mosque shooting victim Naeem Rashid, 50, has been hailed as a hero by the Pakistani government for trying to stop the shooter during Friday’s attack. His niece, who lives in Edmonton, remembers him for his “humbleness.”  (Supplied/Shaukat Khan)

Her uncle is now being heralded as a hero for his attempts to save others before being fatally wounded.

“(Naeem) was very famous in our family because of his polite nature, his kindness, his humbleness,” Gul said of her uncle, a father of three who recently completed his PhD in Islamic finance at Lincoln University in New Zealand. He died while trying to tackle the gunman outside one mosque before being shot, and is the recipient of a posthumous national Pakistani award for his bravery.

His son, Talha, was also one of the victims. He was in his final year of engineering studies at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, Gul said, and was excited to begin his career and settle down to start a family.

Gul mourned both her family members at a prayer event at the Pakistan Canada Association of Edmonton on Saturday night, where around 60 members of the community gathered to pay their condolences to the Christchurch victims. “That incident affected many families around the world,” Gul said.

With Gul’s personal connection to the tragedy, members of the wider Muslim community in Edmonton say they have strongly felt the pain in the aftermath of Friday’s shootings.

On Monday afternoon, the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council (AMPAC), a representative body for Muslim communities in the province, gathered in Edmonton’s City Hall to speak about the shootings’ impact on the city’s Muslim community and to remember the victims.

Adil Hasan, a member of AMPAC, said the attack has struck a nerve with the community because of its parallels to the Quebec mosque shooting in January 2017, where six Muslims died. He added the New Zealand gunman attacked worshippers during Friday prayer, a sacred prayer that is observed by Muslims weekly all over the world.

“Muslims pray at the same time. Friday prayer is the same everywhere,” Hasan said.

During the gathering, AMPAC also highlighted threats that Alberta mosques receive closer to home. Momin Saeed, an AMPAC member, referenced incidents where mosques and other places of worship in Alberta faced online threats, harassment, and hateful graffiti.

Most recently, Edmonton’s Al Rashid Mosque, Canada’s oldest, was visited by the Wolves of Odin, a splinter group of the Finland-based anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin, which prompted an investigation by Edmonton police. Saeed said that incident was “very troubling.”

In the midst of the pain and mourning for the lives lost in New Zealand, AMPAC has also called for political action from the federal government — to increase resources and funding for deradicalization efforts, and to have the Canadian government declare the “three percent,” a paramilitary group that is active in Alberta, a terrorist group in Canada.

“They’ve shown radical tendencies, and they’ve got a clear trail that shows that they are a dangerous group that needs to be addressed,” Hasan said.

For Gul and her family, the wound of Friday’s attack remains fresh. She said her three sons, who regularly attend Qur’an studies in an Edmonton mosque after school, are now worried for their safety. She said her youngest, 11, asked her, “Do you really want to send me to the mosque?” after the attack.

But Gul added that she is committed to spreading the message of peace, and that wounds will heal with the passage of time.

Nadine Yousif is a reporter/photographer for Star Edmonton. Follow her on twitter: @nadineyousif_





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