It was a warm day when we gathered in the auditorium at the Piano to hear Farid Ahmed talk to Raf Manji about Husna’s Story. His book is both a tribute to his wife, Husna Ahmed, and their life together and an account of his experience of the mosque attacks of 15 March 2019, in which she was killed. The author wheeled himself onto the stage smiling and waving. He began by thanking us for attending and offering to answer any questions we may wish to ask him.
His marriage to Husna was meant to be, Farid Ahmed said. She was a blessing. They were a team. They shared the same hobbies and the same compassion for others. When Husna accepted his proposal from Bangladesh and travelled to New Zealand to marry him, it was only one of many ways she demonstrated her adventurousness. She embraced her life in Nelson, where they settled for the early years of their marriage, made friends and earned the respect of her community. This word, community, comes up time and time again in Husna’s Story. As a team, Husna and her husband were closely connected to a great number of people by the choices they made: as teachers of Islam and Bengali, in Husna’s case as a midwife, in Farid’s case as a homeopath, and in many other ways.
Farid is full of love for his wife, and in awe of the sacrifices she made for him and for others, particularly in two crucial moments: when he was hit by a drunk driver in Nelson, which left him paraplegic, and on the day of the mosque attacks in Christchurch, when she re-entered Masjid al-Noor several times looking for him. He said he couldn’t adequately describe his feelings that day or the loss he still feels, but he wrote and spoke about them very powerfully. He wasn’t stirred to hate or anger during or after the attack on March 15, he explained, but he suffered severe emotional pain. He asks himself the same inevitable questions we would all ask ourselves, about Husna’s experience that day.
In the hours that followed the attack, he told the audience, his faith led him to make an important decision. He knew that the massacre and his response to it had implications not only for his own Muslim community and Christchurch, but also for New Zealand and the world. He would respond to the act of hate with love and forgiveness, and offer his support to all those affected by the attacks. Taking this leadership role proved to be helpful for Farid in coping with his trauma and grief. It gave him a focus. Since then, he has indeed shared this message around the world.
In the Q & A segment, Farid reported that his daughter Shifa, who is now finishing Year 12, is doing well, and has a lot of support from her friends. One audience member sang a waiata, and another expressed her gratitude to the author for sharing his and his wife’s stories. It was a sentiment, I think I can safely say, that was shared by everyone in the audience.
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