Yama Nabi, whose father was among the victims of a 2019 terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand, said he is pleased to see Turkey's iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque reopened for worship.
On March 15, 2019, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist, shot dead 51 Muslim worshippers and wounded 40 others at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. Last year he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Haji Daoud Nabi, the father of Yama Nabi, appeared in the terrorist's livestream of the attack, welcoming him into the mosque with the words, "Hello, brother."
He was also among the first to be killed.
Yama came to Turkey for the Hello Brother World Peace Symposium, organized by the International Knowledge and Perception Association and Haci Bayram Veli University in the capital Ankara on the third anniversary of the attack, and also visited the iconic Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul.
Citing how in a 74-page online manifesto Tarrant referred to ridding Hagia Sophia of its Muslim minarets, Yama said, “He wanted to destroy the mosque. But this mosque is beautiful, and it (his efforts) will not work.”
As Hagia Sophia was turned back into a mosque from a museum, he said, now people come and sit and listen to the azan, or call to prayer.
“It feels different for people coming from all over the world,” he said.
Tarrant's anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rant contained threats against Turkey, including identifying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a target for assassination.
In the past, Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years and 86 years as a museum, but for most of the last 500 years – from 1453 to 1934 – it functioned as a mosque, a status it regained in 2020.
In 1985, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Besides being a mosque, Hagia Sophia is also among Turkey's top tourism destinations and remains open for domestic and foreign visitors.
‘God created everyone equal’
Decrying how Tarrant was trying to turn Muslims and non-Muslims against each other, Yama said, "We are all together. We are human. Color, blood … it’s all same. God created everyone equal. And we do not support terrorism.”
Asked about UN approval of a resolution designating March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia, he said the UN needs to wake up and help Palestine as well.
Expressing his love for Turkey, Yama said people of different languages and faiths from around the world visit the country, and this is good.
Omer Lutfu Turkmenoglu, the head of the International Knowledge and Perception Association, said the attack targeting Muslims was part of a disinformation campaign.
In the New Zealand mosque attack, Turkmenoglu said, “People were massacred in their own places of worship.
“In this terrorist attack, not a single Muslim had a weapon to defend himself. So this was part of a disinformation campaign that tried to link Muslims to weapons and terrorism."
"Daoud Nabi, who was martyred, gave the best answer to this act by saying, 'Hello, brother.' The first martyr in the attack was Daoud Nabi.
“The last was Zekeriya Tuyan, who was martyred after 48 days in intensive care after the attack.”
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