Typically in the Muslim community, women and men do not hug one another unless they are relatives. Nevertheless, in a crowded meeting space inside the Daar Ul-Islam Mosque, about 200 heavy hearts and sympathetic spirits embraced and consoled each other in the wake of a terrorist attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday.
New Zealand authorities say a 28-year-old white nationalist gunman killed at least 49 people while they were praying at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque.
Friday prayers did not cease for members and friends of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis. They were heightened and extended to a period of reflection during a service with board members, imams, rabbis, and other friends of the Interfaith Partnership.
As Muslim leaders spoke to the crowd about the attacks, they offered support and prayers to the attendees.
“As one who recently experienced the sudden loss of a loved one myself, I can greatly empathize with those families who are going through this difficult time,” Imam Asif Umar of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis said. “But let us be real for a moment. This attack is a reminder that Islamophobia is real, and that words and ideologies of intolerance that have become prevalent today have deep and dangerous effects not only in our own country but around the globe.”
Umar reminded the crowd that this is not the first attack on a Muslim house of worship, and encouraged them to band together to fight hate and injustice.
Donald Perlin of Chesterfield came to support the community during this time of crisis. He said in St. Louis there has always been a good relationship between the Jews and Muslims and among all the religious communities. However, he believes it is an unfortunate circumstance, but it does show that we are all together.
After hugging and wishing friends peace as they went about their day, Farzana Chohan of St. Louis said she would like to see people of all faiths as one in the 21st century, and, “As humans, it is our job to not be divided and stand tall with one another.”
Andrea Henderson is part of the public-radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Portland (Oregon).
Follow Andrea at @drebjournalist.
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