Dozens of Deltans gathered at the Baitur Rahman Mosque Saturday night to show support for the Muslim community in the wake of a mass shooting at a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that that left 50 worshippers dead and many more injured.
Attendees held a silent prayer vigil for the victims of the terrorist attack, in which an alleged white supremacist opened fire during Friday prayer services at two mosques on March 15.
Delta Mayor George Harvie commended the mosque’s decision to keep its gates open as a way to show that fear has not taken hold in this “diverse community.” He offered his thoughts to the affected and said not to give into or be intimidated by such attacks.
“It’s very humbling and also disturbing to be here today because of what a coward did,” Harvie told the crowd in the mosque’s courtyard on the evening of March 23. ”It’s amazing how many people are brave behind a keyboard nowadays and with a terrible weapon.”
Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord emphasized the need to have peaceful dialogue during these calamitous times and to stick together as a community and work through our differences.
“Dialogue is always much better when it’s done in peace,” he told the audience. “But from tragedy sometimes, dialogue and meaningful change does happen. So it’s time to stand up against hate. It’s time to stand up for peace, and it begins with us gathering here tonight on this important vigil.”
Imam Tariq Azeem told the Reporter that having the community and its leaders come out to the vigil creates hope in spite of people’s concerns about safety, not only in Canada but around the world. He said he still thinks the majority of the world and Canada is made up of peaceful people, but he believes it’s prudent to be vigilant in all places of worship, not just mosques.
“It shows that none of the places of worship are safe,” the imam said. “So when we come together in solidarity in this manner, it reminds us that the majority of the world still believes in peace.”
Azeem explained the the basic message of Islam, as in all religions, is “love for all, hatred for none,” and that educating oneself about Islam first-hand would help to dispel some of the malevolent myths about the faith.
“So instead of believe in things one might have read online or heard from people here and there, I encourage people to visit a mosque in their locality and meet with Muslims,” Azeem suggested. “They would find it a very comforting experience They would understand that Muslims are a very peaceful group.”