Editorials, Opinions

A personal perspective on the New Zealand attacks

Growing up a Muslim-American, my family has always emphasized the importance of “Salaat Jummah,” which translates into Friday prayer. This is a ritualistic congregational prayer that Muslims hold every Friday at mosques.

When I think of Friday prayer, I envision all those who gather from different backgrounds and participate in the ritual. I think of mothers who bring their children to teach them the importance of prayer and faith, I think of teenagers who gather with friends, and older parents and grandparents who seek fulfillment through the remembrance of God.

At Friday prayer, I feel protected, I feel calmed by the silence of prayer, but above all I feel at peace. However, when I attended Friday prayer last week, the tranquility I typically experience during prayer was replaced by grief, anger and fear.

Feb. 15 I awoke to a horrendous shock; news outlets from all over the world broadcasting the headline “49 Dead in New Zealand Mosque Attack.” As soon as I found out, I called my father who is the leader of our weekly Friday prayer at the mosque we attend.

“Did you hear the news?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s terrible. May God have mercy on their souls. I’m on my way to the mosque right now.” he said.

After talking to my father, I felt the urge to drive to my local mosque; there was no doubt in my mind that the terrible incident was going to be discussed. When I sat down during prayer that Friday, I looked around the room and tears filled my eyes.

I couldn’t fathom what the victims must have felt while deep in prayer as they suddenly heard gunshots fire. It’s incredibly hard to imagine what the families of the victims are going through even as a Muslim-American.

In the days after the massacre, I thought about how it could have been me, how it could have been my family or friends.

“Hello brother, welcome,” were the words the first victim said to the white terrorist, moments before being gunned down. These words were captured on camera during the terrorist’s livestream of the shoot. I can’t seem to forget about these words — words of kinship and welcoming.

I kept checking social media and marveling in the beauty of seeing non-Muslims condemning the attack and providing the support for the Muslim community.

However, while thoughts and prayers are important, they don’t suffice. This attack was caused by a growing ideology of white nationalism that is fed by politicians, media personalities and various others sources.

Yet, people often perceive Muslims as a threat because powerful figures such as President Donald Trump frequently label us as such. An article from The Washington Post presents comments that have been made by Trump about the Islam faith and Muslims.

These comments constantly demonize Muslims. Trump even signed an Executive Order in 2017, a travel ban that targeted majority Muslim countries, claiming that “Islam hates us [America].” At a rally in New Hampshire, he pledged to kick all Syrian refugees, most of whom are Muslim, out of the country, as they might be “a secret army or ISIS.”

According to the New York Times, the attacker  “was inspired by a thriving online ideological structure that recruits and radicalizes mostly men to save Western civilization from a foreign invasion.” The terrorist behind the New Zealand mosque attacks praised Trump in his 74-page-long manifesto calling Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Terror attacks performed by white supremacists are rarely seen as a global phenomenon. Instead, media outlets tend to portray white nationalists that perform acts of terrorism as people with mental health. There have been countless attacks by white supremacists.

The New Zealand attacks proves the community needs to act against white supremacist  ideology that influences people on the internet. The global ideology of white nationalism is what threatens us today and what threatens all immigrants around the world.

People fail to recognize the terrorists threats posed to Muslims, and in order to create a safe society, change must happen. We must call out those spreading and preaching hate. We must continue to call out the people who foster the ideology of white nationalism and the politicians and media outlets that give it a platform.

With that it mind, we need to unite as one and support each other’s communities. LBSU’s Muslim Student Association will be holding An Evening of Remembrance to honor the victims of the shootings, which will be held Thursday at Brotman Hall from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. It is time for the campus to come together in solidarity.

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