South Bay residents and elected officials respond after New Zealand massacre

March 16, 2019

By Aliyah Mohammed

Link to San Jose Spotlight article

The reverberations of a well-planned “terrorist attack,” in the words of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand yesterday have left Muslim communities in the South Bay reeling.

Prayers for the 49 dead and scores who were injured could be heard in Friday sermons across the Bay Area, as religious leaders urged members of the community to find solace in their faith.

As Muslims in mosques across the Bay Area bowed their heads in prayer Friday afternoon, some were joined by non-Muslim community members who came to express their solidarity. Stepped up police presence were noticeable at many prayer congregations after the attack.

The South Bay Islamic Association posted on its Facebook page warning worshippers to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to law enforcement.

“We must realize that while the perpetrators will have to account for their crimes both in this world and the hereafter, the environment of Islamophobia that exists in some areas continues. Accordingly, we must be vigilant and observant at all times,” the mosque posted.

South Bay Imam Tahir Anwar also posted on Facebook inviting community members to mosques to express their support. “If you see people angry, upset or crying, please understand that this is a hard time for us. You don’t have to say anything. You are welcome to stand there. Even if it feels awkward,” he posted.

“We’ve been on the receiving end of this hatred for a long time, and we are tired. Those of you that continuously support us, thank you,” his post went on to say.

Many people took to social media sites to express their grief and heartbreak at the tragedy that took place when hundreds of defenseless men, women and children were praying in congregation.

San Jose resident Tanya Agha said it was heartbreaking to see something like this happen at a house of worship where people go for prayer and community. While she and her family attended Friday prayer, she said the fear that something like the attack could happen here is definitely at the back of a lot of people’s minds.

“It feels like sometimes it’s cyclical, something happens and you are hypervigilant, then you relax because you think maybe things are progressing, and then something happens again and you become hypervigilant, and cautious, Agha said. “I feel protected when I go to the mosque and there are police officers and people standing in solidarity, but it reminds you why those police officers are there… and it’s tiring having to watch our backs over and over again.”

This was a sentiment shared by many from the community who posted on social media sites in the aftermath of the attack.

Local elected officials including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo took to social media as well to offer their well wishes to the community.

“Our hearts go out to the devastated families of the victims of the horrific mosque shootings in Christchurch. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers,” Liccardo tweeted.

Congressman Ro Khanna added, “We must always stand against hate and islamophobia here in America and around the world.”

Vigils are being held all over the Bay Area this weekend and one will take place outside of Martin Luther King Library in downtown San Jose at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Contact Aliyah Mohammed at aliyah.jmohammed@gmail.com or follow Aliyah_JM on Twitter.