Christchurch — The wife of a Pakistani man who died along with his son trying to confront a suspected white supremacist during twin mosque attacks in Christchurch earlier this year said she was “overwhelmed” by Saudi Arabia’s offer to bereaved families to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage as guests of King Salman.
Mian Naeem Rashid, 50, and his son Talha were among nine Pakistanis killed when a gunman attacked two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch in March, killing 50 people from countries including Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Jordan. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with the murders and will go on trial next year.
Rashid from Abbottabad, Pakistan, and a New Zealand resident for nine years, was at the Al Noor mosque with his 21-year-old son. He was seen lunging at the gunman in the livestream video the killer posted online.
Rashid’s wife said she was “overwhelmed by this gesture of Saudi Arabia” to send the bereaved families of the Christchurch attack on Hajj.
Speaking to Arab News via phone from her home in New Zealand, Ambreen Rashid said: “I am thankful to King Salman and the Crown Prince for keeping us in their thoughts and providing us the opportunity to visit our most holy and spiritual place.”
Rashid said she along with other families of the victims were approached by Saudi diplomats shortly after the March attacks with the offer to go on the Hajj pilgrimage as guests of the government.
On Tuesday, Sheikh Abdullatif bin Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, formally announced that on the directives of King Salman, 200 members of the Christchurch victims’ families would perform Hajj this year.
Hosting the families during Hajj season is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “confront and defeat terrorism” in all forms, Asheikh said, adding that his ministry was working with the Saudi embassy in New Zealand to make all arrangements for the families’ pilgrimage.
Earlier this year, Pakistan bestowed a national award on Naeem Rashid, with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying in a tweet: “Pakistan is proud of Mian Naeem Rashid who was martyred trying to tackle the white supremacist terrorist and his courage will be recognized with a national award.”
“I remember last year I was talking to my husband that I wanted to perform Hajj, but we weren’t in the position financially,” said Rashid who will travel to Saudi Arabia in the first week of August with her two sons. “But he told me then not to worry and trust Allah and now when I have been blessed with the opportunity to perform Hajj, I can’t express how much I miss my husband. I wish he was with me.”
(The story has been taken exactly from Arab News, except the Headlines and Feature Photo)