L.A. Muslims Welcome Mourners of All Faiths in the Wake of the New Zealand Mosque Massacre

“We are concerned about making sure that people know that we’re there for them and that we stand against hate.”

A shudder of grief ripples through the Muslim community and beyond after mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, left 49 people dead and 48 wounded, including children. But with the promise of additional vigilance from local law enforcement, Los Angeles Muslims are responding to the tragedy by keeping their doors open to members of all faiths to join them in mourning and solidarity.

“We’re planning an interfaith solidarity rally in Anaheim this evening,” says Eugene Fields, the communications manager for Council on American-Islamic Relations, Los Angeles (CAIR-LA). “We are concerned about making sure that people know that we’re there for them and that we stand against hate.”

Shortly after the news of the shootings began to percolate across the Pacific, the Los Angeles Police Department tweeted out an assurance that they were “monitoring the horrific events.”

“While this attack appears to be an isolated incident with no nexus to L.A., out of an abundance of caution we’re providing extra patrols around mosques,” the tweet reads.

Other counties including Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside have yet to make similar commitments, Fields says.

The massacre, which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” highlights an increasingly hostile atmosphere toward Muslims across the globe—including in Southern California.

Last September, the Orange County Human Relations Commission released a report on hate crimes in 2017, showing an increase in hate crimes for the third year in a row. Muslims and those of Middle Eastern Descent represented the largest targeted group at 16 percent of all hate crimes in the county.

CAIR-LA has also seen an influx of reports of civil rights violations, Fields says.

In explaining the rise of these incidents, Fields points to the manifesto of one of the Christchurch mosque assailants, who seemed to find ideological sympathy in the words of American President Donald Trump. The 74-page dossier, which spread across social media along with a live-streamed video of the carnage, described Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

“From the moment that he announced he was going to run for office, the first thing he did was come down the escalator and say that he was going to build a wall because people of Mexican descent were rapists and drug dealers and gang bangers and murderers,” Fields says. “Then, later on, he decided that he was going to a call for a ban on all Muslims.”

Trump tweeted out his “warmest sympathies” early Friday morning. “The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do,” he said.

Fields urges mosques not to panic and invites people of all faiths to attend tonight’s vigil, which is co-sponsored by a branch of the nonpartisan government accountability group Indivisible and the student-led gun reform group March For Our Lives.

The vigil will be held 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC), 1220 N. State College Blvd. in Anaheim.

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