Friday Prayers New Zealand Massacre

Young women weep as they hold each other for comfort during a students vigil near Al Noor mosque on March 18, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images).

On Fridays, I normally go to a mosque for mid-afternoon prayers called Jummah, which means "congregation." Like Christians on Sundays and Jews on Saturdays, Muslims attend services on Fridays — most rushing in from work, sometimes taking an extended lunch hour, and promptly returning to work.

Like you, I awoke Friday to the horrifying news of a terror attack at the two New Zealand mosques. The alleged gunman, who streamed live his evil act, justified the massacre in a manifesto: “I am just a regular white man, from a regular family, who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people.”

In his twisted supremacist ideology, he then went on an indiscriminate killing spree —targeting a multiracial gathering of worshipers, including other whites and children. They were Afghani, Turkish, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Jordanian, Indonesian, native born New Zealanders and others of all ages and vocations.

Muslims have been portrayed as a monolith bunch, demonized as inherently radical, violent, foreign and unAmerican by Islamophobes, fueling hostility toward them. The truth: We come in all skin colors, ethnicities, nationalities and linguistic roots. Muslim-American families have been living here for generations.

A 2017 Pew report said: “No racial or ethnic group makes up a majority of Muslim-American adults.” Pew reports “no single country accounts for more than 15 percent of adult Muslim immigrants to the United States.”

That 15 percent is from Pakistan. My own country of origin, India, accounts for 7 percent of Muslim immigrants.

“Among U.S. Muslim adults who were born abroad, more come from South Asia (35 percent) than any other region,” Pew reports. The other fundamental value that unites us as Muslims in this country is that we recognize America as our homeland and we want to contribute to a healthy, successful future for our nation.

Pew researchers found that “the vast majority of Muslims living in the U.S. (82 percent) are American citizens.”

Like other groups that have migrated to these shores from around the globe, Muslims arrived in fragmented communities separated by cultural roots. As the American story has always been told, our nation’s founding values have the potential to unite us.

Today, despite our original diversity, American Muslims attend congregational prayers together.

To experience our unity in diversity, visit a Friday congregational prayer. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously called Sunday morning the most racially segregated hour of the week. This growing experience of Muslim unity for Friday afternoon prayers represents the most racially and ethnically united hour of the week. Whether in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Canada or the U.S, mosque congregations in the West tend to be similar.

An oft-repeated verse during Friday sermon is: “O Humankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and people, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other)” (Quran: 49:13).

Our Creator designed our colorful diversity. We all — white, black, brown, red or yellow — come from two. And, we all bleed red.

This past Friday, as I drove for prayers to a Fort Pierce mosque, my sad thoughts were with those grieving and preparing for funerals in Christchurch, New Zealand. Upon entering the parking lot, I was glad to see a police car stationed for our protection. This shouldn’t be the norm for people simply wanting to pray. Yet, in the aftermath of another violent act and a lingering fear, I was grateful to our law enforcement for their presence.

And, I’m thankful to our fellow Americans and neighbors. I received messages of solidarity, love, support and caring from friends of all convictions and backgrounds — particularly from my Jewish friends who closely identified themselves with this tragedy, recalling a similar attack at the Pittsburg’s Tree of Life Synagogue fresh in our memory.

That, too, was the act of a white supremacist.

I wish President Trump would also echo such sentiments to Muslims, pointedly condemning this act in a tweet, bluntly identifying this “white supremacist terrorism,” some call it White ISIS. He must clearly distance himself in the strongest terms from the praise he personally received in this alleged killer’s manifesto.

Victor Ghalib Begg is a nationally known peace activist and the author of the 2019 memoir, “Our Muslim Neighbors”.  He lives in Fort Pierce, Florida with his wife.

( Source: TCPalm - USA Today )


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