AFL star’s surprising message to gunman
RICHMOND star and Muslim Bachar Houli has delivered a surprise message to the gunman of the Christchurch massacre after the deaths of 49 people.
The 30-year-old midfielder, the second devout Muslim to play in the AFL, said the mosque killings, allegedly orchestrated by white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, provided one positive.
"The incident out of Christchurch, it's only made our community stronger so the killer's objectives, well, you've just raised awareness. So thank you," he said.
"Sorry to say that to the people who have lost their lives. Because we feel it, I feel it. It was like one of my own had gone down.
"There's positives out of every situation. There are 49 people who have passed from this occasion, but the one thing I love and I am so proud to be an Australian-Muslim is the fact that all of Australia have come out in support.
"Australians, we feel for everyone. And it's a good opportunity because it's a moment where people can learn a thing or two about Islam.
"We can live in this ignorant bubble where we're not willing to go out and meet a Muslim, talk to a Muslim, read about Islam. Rather we want to gather in our little groups and just hate. Hate for no reason."
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a self-described white supremacist, is accused of live-streaming the attack on Facebook.
He has been charged with one count of murder.
Houli, who is the AFL's multicultural ambassador and has received a $1.2 million boost from the federal government for his AFL program supporting young Muslims, said he had to leave training the day the shooting happened because of how gut-wrenching it was.
He said he hoped the events would help people be more open minded about his faith.
"The one thing that stands out to me and this should be a message to everyone is that the first person who got gunned down was a person who welcomed the gunman," he said.
"He said, 'Welcome brother, please come in.'
"They were his last words before he passed away.
"That should basically define the people who we are. We're welcoming people and peaceful people full of harmony.
"There are times on the field where I've received a few comments from the crowd (about being a Muslim) but I just put a smile on my face. We are so proud of who we are and this will not break us."
While he is still reeling from the events, Houli promised fans he was in the best possible headspace ahead of Richmond's season starting clash with Carlton on Thursday night.
The 2019 Toyota AFL Premiership kicks off on FOX FOOTY and FOX SPORTS on Thursday at 6.30pm