Wednesday, 23 October 2019

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'We are hurt': Tallahassee Muslims express shock, fear, sorrow over New Zealand mosque attacks

By Nada Hassanein, For Tallahassee Democrat, On 15 March 2019, Read Original
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Inside the Islamic Center of Tallahassee Friday afternoon, Muslims prayed and shed tears for the 49 killed and 48 wounded in the New Zealand mosque shootings — the country's deadliest attack.

The horrific killings took place at two mosques in the city of Christchurch during Friday prayer services, for which Muslims congregate around the world.

As they woke up to news of the senseless attack Friday morning, local Muslims reached out to each other. They told their loved ones to take care at their own Friday prayers and to stay vigilant.

"I was shocked, I was shocked," said Tallahassee resident Zam Abdalla, shaking her head. "I was scared to come to mosque today, really."

Abdalla quietly read from a Quran in the prayer room at the mosque off Old Bainbridge Road.

"We are not living safe ... even not just for us (Muslims) — any human being," she said.

Her eyes welled with tears. She began to cry and remembered the Quranic verse, "Whoever kills a human being, it is as if they have killed all of humanity."

During a passionate sermon, Imam Munir Alfarra said, "We are hurt."

He said he received calls from local pastors and law enforcement expressing solidarity with the local Muslim community.

"As human beings, we have to stand for the lives of the humanity," Alfarra said. "We have to stand for the lives of the innocent people that tonight — children and women — will have to go to sleep, but without brothers ... without their husbands, without their families. Just imagine that: The father went to pray, and he never came back."

Alfarra talked about Islam's teachings of justice and peace, and the impact of Islamophobia and hate.

Abdalla said she is grateful she hasn't had Islamophobic experiences in Tallahassee for the five years she has been here. But as a mother to a hijab-wearing teenager at Leon High, she felt fear around her child's openly Muslim identity after Friday's tragedy.

Local IT consultant Faaiza Shaikh said she also was shocked by the news.

"It does not make sense to go and kill people who are praying to their lord," she said.

Shaikh said she thought the attack was ironic and cowardly — "Islam being the religion of peace and justice, even when we first meet each other, another Muslim brother or sister, we start with 'salaam.'"

The greeting means "peace."

Wilfredo Ruiz with Florida's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, said "the whole community is mourning."

The gunman, a 28-year-old man from Australia, live-streamed his attack. He wrote and posted a 70-page anti-immigrant manifesto, where he said he was inspired by the Norwegian mass shooter and had read the Charleston church mass shooter's writings, USA Today reported.

Australia's Prime Minister called the shooter, who has been arrested, an "extremist, right-wing violent terrorist."

"Seeing people who have the same idea, same hate expressed by the people who
attacked the synagogue in Pittsburgh, the people who attacked the African American church in Charleston — that mentality, that hate, today massacred men, women and children in their mosque," Ruiz said.

In a statement, former mosque board vice president Ahmed Rashidi called for law enforcement to strengthen security for minorities and places of worship, and encouraged residents to build bridges with one another. 

"Please get to know your fellow Americans who happened to embrace a different faith. Let’s not hate, let’s communicate!" he wrote. "Please visit your local mosque and get to know your neighbor."

Reach Nada Hassanein at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter @nhassanein_.