Two Muslim worshipers were among ten people awarded the New Zealand Cross, the country’s highest honor, for their civilian bravery that risked their lives to save others during the Christchurch mosque attacks.
They were Dr. Naeem Rashid, who died trying to tackle the gunman, and Abdul Aziz, who survived after dodging bullets and chasing the attacker away.
On March 15, 2019, a white supremacist gunman opened fire on two mosques in the city, leaving fifty-one people killed. The attack was extremely brutal that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it an “extreme and unprecedented violence” on “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Ms. Arden said the courage shown by these New Zealanders was extraordinary, and they deserve to have the most profound respect and gratitude for their actions on that day. It was their correlative action that prevented a more significant loss of life.
Ms. Ardern added by acknowledging Dr. Rashid’s wife and family particularly, who will know all too well that his actions that day were a reflection of who he was as a person and that Dr. Rashid had “paid the highest price with the loss of his own life.”
Government authorities described how Rashid, who was with his son at the Al Noor Mosque, bravely “launched himself” at the gunman and knocked him to the ground, allowing others to escape. But unfortunately, the attacker managed to get back up and shoot and kill Rashid.
Others awarded bravery honors were a worshiper who protected another man while being shot and two police officers who rammed the gunman’s car and dragged him out before he could continue his massacre at the third mosque. There were also bystanders who helped the wounded.
The gunman, white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one count of terrorism. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole last year.