Interfaith gathering in wake of New Zealand mass shooting
Imam calls for unity in face of white supremacist attacks
Hundreds of worshippers and interfaith leaders turned out for noon prayers at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury Friday in the wake of the white supremacist attack at two New Zealand mosques that left 50 dead and more than 50 injured.
Senior Imam Yasir Fahmy urged the gathered crowd at the Roxbury mosque to work toward better understanding between cultures and religions.
“The one thing I can’t stop thinking about is that when this ideologically-charged white supremacist terrorist entered into that mosque, there was a Muslim at the door who said to him, ‘Hello brother,’” Fahmy said. “I can’t stop thinking about this because that’s what this world needs. It needs brotherhood and sisterhood, it needs love, it needs compassion, it needs mercy.”
The midday attack, which happened during Friday prayers at the two Christchurch mosques, prompted authorities to put the New Zealand capital on lockdown. It was the first mass shooting in the country of 4 million since 1991 and the largest in the nation’s history. Three suspects were taken into custody, including the 28-year-old man believed to be the mastermind of the attack.
The shooter live-streamed the attack on social media as it happened, and a 74-page manifesto posted online has been linked to the attack.
Fahmy said the same white supremacist hatred that surfaced in New Zealand also precipitated the shootings last year at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and in the 2012 Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
“If we don’t see that, we’re not seeing things as things are — that there is this ideologically-driven reality present in our society, and it is among if not the greatest source of trauma for millions across the world,” he said.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, speaking after Fahmy, told the mostly Muslim crowd that the city is working to keep mosques and other houses of worship safe with increased police presence.
“I just want you to know that we’re here with you,” he said. “We have police officers that are outside who are watching the front door and we have police officers inside praying.”
Walsh underscored that there are no threats of terrorist acts in Boston at this time.
Outside the mosque, Walsh and other officials greeted worshippers after the noon prayers. Ahmed Hassan, who has lived in the Greater Boston area for 29 years, said he feels safe in Boston.
“There is a lot of hatred in the world,” he said. “But Boston is my city. I have a wife and children. The city of Boston is different. The community of Boston comes together.”
Inside the mosque, Fahmy noted that the name of one of the mosques attacked in was Al Noor, a name for God which in English means “The Light.”
“These houses of Allah are houses of light,” Fahmy said. “God is light. God is the light of the heavens and the earth. There will be those who try to put out God’s light. But God reminds and reaffirms, ‘No one will ever put my light, no matter what those who reject me say or do.’”
Fahmy urged worshipers to remember the light of God as they cope with the tragic events in New Zealand.
“In this moment, turn to God and seek refuge in his light,” he said.