Kishwar Shoaib, dressed in a pink hijab, sat quietly during a special prayer service at the Mosque of Islamic Society of Nevada in Las Vegas to honor the victims of the shootings late Thursday in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Shoaib’s eyes brimmed with tears as she thought of the 49 victims and their families.
“It is the worst possible thing,” she said after the prayer service Friday.
News broke late Thursday that at least one gunman opened fire on two mosques during prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 49 people and wounding dozens more.
Bashir Chowdhry, president of the Islamic Society of Nevada, said people are very frightened.
“We don’t know where a safe place is anymore,” he said. “Is it a church? A synagogue? A school? A mosque?”
Chowdhry said he was very saddened by the news.
“I keep asking the question, ‘Why?’ ” he said. “What did they do? They were in the mosque praying, they were not hurting anybody. They were not taking anybody’s property or job or anything. This is hatred for no reason.”
Shaykh Obair Katchi, a leader from the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco in California, was visiting the Las Vegas mosque and led the prayer service.
“The thing that will help us more than anything else today at this moment, we need righteous deeds. Good deeds give us strength,” Katchi said. “It gives us strength to be able to speak up against falsehood, against hate, against wrongdoings. The goodness we do will produce that strength.”
‘Act of senseless violence’
Bushrah Patel, also visiting from the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco, knelt in the back of the mosque during the prayer service with men and women attending the service. She said the shootings in New Zealand and the 49 lives lost were tragic.
She said she believes local Muslims may be frightened to visit mosques immediately after the shooting.
Dr. Mohammed Shafi, board member of the Islamic Society of Nevada, called the shootings “an act of senseless violence.”
Las Vegas police have increased patrols at mosques across the Las Vegas Valley. Several officers were outside the Mosque of Islamic Society during the prayer service.
Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Jay Rivera said the increased patrols began Thursday night. Metro’s security will continue through the weekend.
“We made contact with all the local mosques and made sure they knew what had happened,” Rivera said, noting that the valley has eight mosques.
An inquiry to North Las Vegas police was not returned, and Henderson police declined to say whether patrols around mosques would be bolstered this weekend because the city is closed on Fridays.
Vigil for victims
At UNLV’s Pida Plaza on Friday evening, students and community leaders gathered for a vigil for the victims of the shooting.
Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Christian leaders spoke to the crowd of about 100 people, while students expressed sadness and anger about the violence, which many called a terrorist act of white supremacy.
“White supremacy is terrorism; education is the key to destroy ignorance,” said Mahir Hussein, a member of UNLV’s Muslim Student Association, as the crowd clapped. “This idea that the supremacists have that gives them this invalid assumption that one human being is better than another is complete and utter senselessness.”
‘Ultimately we are one’
While watching men and woman in colorful hijabs kneel in prayer, Rata Elmore pulled close her 8-year-old son, who had a New Zealand flag wrapped around his shoulders during the vigil. Elmore, who is from New Zealand, said that she has lived in Las Vegas for eight years and that she attended to vigil to show support for her “Muslim brothers and sisters.”
“As a parent, it’s my responsibility to make sure that my children are tolerant, so that they are not hateful and it doesn’t pass on to somebody else,” Elmore said.
During the vigil, an imam spoke to the crowd, saying that “if anything needs to be combated in the world, it is ignorance.”
“In the midst of tragedy, I must say that something good has emerged,” Imam Shamsuddin Waheed, the director of the Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, told the crowd. “What has emerged are the wonderful faces of everybody here, people from diverse religious, ethnic and social backgrounds, who have come together to recognize, as our previous speakers have said, that ultimately we are one.”