More than 140 students gathered Thursday to mourn the 50 worshippers who were slain by a white supremacist in two mosque shootings March 15 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The remembrance event, organized by the Muslim Student Association at IU, also served as a time to educate the community on ways to combat Islamophobia.
Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque were attacked in Christchurch, New Zealand, according to reporting by the New York Times. Fifty people were shot to death, and the rampage was livestreamed by the gunman on social media.
The suspected shooter was charged with one count of murder.
The Washington Post reported that the apparent shooter identified himself in an online manifesto as a 28-year-old white man born in Australia.
Manha Iftikhar, sophomore and co-social chair of MSA, said many Muslims are in fear after the shootings. The attacks came shortly after the death of Mustafa Ayoubi, an IU graduate who was killed in an alleged hate crime in Indianapolis.
“It literally could happen to any one of us,” Iftikhar said. “It did happen to one of us.”
Iftikhar said these people being killed on Friday or jumah, the Muslim holy day, hurt even more.
“It’s just so personal because the mosque is supposed to be this place anyone can go, no matter who you are,” Iftikhar said.
She said every Muslim remembers jumah, with children running around the mosque while the adults pray. She said she now fears for her little brother’s safety.
“It’s never been a thought like, ‘Oh, I need to keep him by my side,’” Iftikhar said.
She said MSA had a responsibility to show its support for New Zealand’s Muslims and grieve with them.
“Just because it was in New Zealand, just because it was on the other side of the world doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact us,” Iftikhar said.
Bringing more awareness to discrimination and reaching out to Muslim friends after tragedies like this helps, Iftikhar said. She said calling out people who continue the cycle of bigotry is also key.
“We’ve normalized Islamophobia and hate speech,” Iftikhar said.
Hadeel Yousef, junior and president of MSA, said Muslim students should be able to share their stories of Islamophobia no matter how inconsequential it may seem. She talked about a time when bacon was found in the mosque she attended in Evansville, Indiana. Pork isn't permitted under Muslim dietary restrictions.This was another reminder she wasn’t welcome, she said.
The shooting was horrible and frightening, Yousef said, and it could just as easily happen in Bloomington.
“That could’ve been our mosque,” she said. “People don’t feel safe going to Friday prayer.”
Sophomore Monique Vargas said she came to the event to see who would come out to support the Muslim community. She said she thinks the anger around this tragedy will dissipate quickly because Western society is desensitized to mass shootings.
Near the end of the event, attendees broke off into groups to discuss ways to support their Muslim friends. One suggestion was to report discrimination when it appears online.
The attendees also volunteered ways for IU’s administration to support Muslim students, such as recruiting diverse employees and asking the university to send out emails condemning these sort of attacks when they happen. Many Muslim students spoke up, saying they need a location on campus to pray that isn't a storage closet.
Laamia Hussain, MSA vice president, ended the event with a message of hope.
“We are undoubtedly part of this community,” she said.
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