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Man who went viral with show of solidarity for Muslims: Time for 'friendship not fear'

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 19 March 2019, 7:09AM
Andrew Graystone, 57, was pictured outside his local mosque on Friday holding a sign that read: 'You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray'. Photo / Twitter

A UK man whose expression of solidarity with the Muslim community went viral following the Christchurch terror attack, says now is the time for friendship, not fear.

Andrew Graystone, 57, was pictured outside his local mosque on Friday holding a sign that read: 'You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray'.

Graystone told Kate Hawkesby during such a difficult time it is important to show kindness.

"The reaction since Friday has just been astonishing. People all over the world are feeling for you in New Zealand at the moment."

"The challenge really is how do we respond to this, do we respond with fear or do we respond with friendship?"

"I've had tens of thousands of individual messages since Friday and they are basically people saying we are going to respond to this with friends not with fear."

Graystone, who is from Manchester, said they have some experience with these kinds of attacks.

"We have some experience of this because we have had our own terrorist attacks, and we know what it's like to be hit in the middle of a community. So our hearts in Manchester are so much with you in New Zealand, in Christchurch in particular, we feel for you so much."

"There nothing that we could say that will make it better, but our experience is that if you pull together the dun will rise again, it feels like it's going to be dark forever but the sun will rise again."

He said it was a spur of the moment decision, he made after watching the news about the deadly Christchurch terror attack.

"I woke up on Friday morning, as you know we are 11 or 12 hours behind you. I woke up to the terrible, terrible news from Christchurch and I found myself thinking what would it feel like to be a Muslim today getting ready to go to Friday prayers?"

"I thought if I was a Muslim, I would be feeling sad and angry and maybe even afraid, and I thought is there something I can do about that?"

"Obviously there isn't much I can do, but I thought I will go and stand by my local mosque and maybe smile at people, then I thought that's going to look a bit weird if I stand there smiling," he said.

"I grabbed an old bit of cardboard and a marker pen and wrote a little message and went and stood outside my local mosque."

Graystone said the reaction was lovely and he was even given a pot of chicken biryani.

"As people walked up the road towards me you could see a few people thinking 'oh no, is this some sort of protester' but when they got close enough dn they saw the message people melted."

He said he waited outside while people were praying, "just keeping my eye on the entrance for them".

"Apparently while they were inside, the Imam mentioned in his sermon that I was outside, so when people came out everyone was shaking my hand and we were salaaming and hugging and it was just a real atmosphere of friendship there."

"They even sent me away with a pot of chicken biriyani so that's a win, isn't it."

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