A man from Surrey, B.C., is mourning the loss of his former classmate who was killed in a gun massacre at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday.
Shaukat Khan said when he heard news of the attack, he sent a message to his friend, Naeem Rashid, reading: “Hope all is well with you and your family. Just heard about the news. Let me know.”
Rashid is the kind of person who always responds within a few hours, Khan said, but in this case he didn’t hear back before going to bed Friday night.
“When I got up, the high school WhatsApp group was buzzing and there was news of him being martyred in the incident. It was a big shock,” Khan said in a phone interview Sunday.
Khan and Rashid were friends since elementary school in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“When I remember Naeem — he was one of the kids who was more mature than anyone else among all of us,” Khan said.
“He would simply smile at us whenever we tried to bother him or tease him. Everyone had respect for him like they would have for an elder.”
Although the two went their own ways after college, they kept in touch. Khan said he last met Rashid about six or seven years ago at a function in Pakistan.
A few days before his death, Khan said his friend posted a verse from the Qur’an on Facebook about the importance of giving back to the community.
“His life was all about that,” Khan said, adding that Rashid and his son, Talha Naeem, gave their lives trying to snatch the attacker’s gun.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise because he’s the kind of person who will stand up to the evils of the world, anything that is happening wrong, and if somebody is hurt and he will try his best to help.”
Rashid comes from a family who believe in social work, Khan said, noting that his friend’s mother is an active member of charities helping out the less fortunate.
“So whatever he did is nothing astonishing for us because it runs in the family, runs in his blood, runs in his genes.”
Rashid’s mother is on her way from Pakistan for her son and grandson’s funerals, Khan said.
As the shootings unfolded, the 50-year-old Rashid is seen on video trying to tackle the gunman, Rashid’s brother, Khurshid Alam, told The Associated Press.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter that the country is proud of Rashid, and his courage will be recognized with a national award.
Khan said Rashid moved to New Zealand about a decade ago and was working as a teacher at a local high school and finishing a PhD, adding that he was very active in the community.
Rashid has three children, he said.
“I heard about Talah who was martyred in the same incident,” Khan said. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian national and avowed white supremacist, is believed to have carried out the attacks at two mosques that left at least 50 people dead and just as many injured.
Thirty-four wounded remained in hospital, where officials said 12 were in critical condition. A 4-year-old girl at a children’s hospital in Auckland was also listed as critical.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press