'It shouldn't matter who pulled the trigger'
SYED "Naji" Shahed has faced "flat out" racism in his eight years in Australia, but says he never felt more at home than in the Jacaranda city.
"I have been reminded of my foreignness in a city, but I was made to feel at home as part of a town in Grafton," he said.
Mr Shahed was welcomed "as part of the furniture" in Grafton where he felt safe to practice his Muslim faith for the two years he lived here.
In the wake of the horrific attack against Christchurch's Muslim community, he reminded the town he loves to remember the victims of the violence.
"We should focus on the lives of those who are lost. Years and decades from now, it shouldn't matter who pulled the trigger," he said.
"We should only remember the very real cost of that, which is these people's lives."
"If you ask Joe Blow on the street, name anyone, the first name that is going to come to mind is Brenton Tarrant, because that is the name being pushed out there."
"It won't be Husna Ahmed, the lady who died protecting her husband, or Farhaj Ahsan, the doctor who became a dad a few months ago, but now he's not going to be able to go home and see his little boy."
Mr Shahed said it was "beautiful" to see vigils and memorials for the 50 victims remembered around the world by people of different faiths.
"Any display of sentiment, or support is valued," he said.
"What matters is that we honour the lives of those who were taken from us."
"It's beautiful to see that these people would ask the highest power they know to bless the souls of the departed."
The Muslim community in Grafton is very small, with many workers coming to town for short periods on contracts as engineers or doctors completing residency. Mr Shahed said it took a couple of months to "suss out" but it was agreed among his friends Grafton was a " very safe space".
"We would organise weekly Friday prayers, and when we have our religious observances like Ramadan, we would organise group dinners," he said.
"When we would have our religious celebrations I would wear traditional ethnic clothes, and I would go out and ride my bicycle or walk to another Muslim family's house to do my prayers, and we felt safe.
"I have faced certain aspects of discrimination, flat out racism to my face in what you would think was a metropolitan, culturally diverse city.
"But I did not have that experience in a country town, in the middle of nowhere."
Mr Shahed is keen to return to the Clarence Valley after moving to Sydney at the end of last year for work.