Community rallies to support local Muslims
At a Thursday midday gathering of 100 outside Hemmingson Center at Gonzaga University and at a Friday evening gathering of several hundred filling the Spokane Islamic Center, Mamdouh El-Aarag asked "all people of conscience and faith to reject hate, Islamophobia, racism and injustice" after the shooting that killed 51 people and injured 20 March 15 at Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Mamdouh is a member of the Spokane Islamic Center's board.
Fr. Patrick Wanakuta Baraza, GU religious studies lecturer, said those there stood in solidarity with the people of New Zealand in face of the terrorist attack.
"We mourn with people in New Zealand and families who lost loved ones in the horrific violence that killed innocent people," he said. "God calls us to welcome strangers and to love neighbors, however different they may be. We stand against hate."
Speaking at Gonzaga and the Islamic center, Mamdouh said no one imagined such a massacre would happen in the small, peaceful town of Christchurch.
"The indiscriminate killing of innocent people praying has shocked the world," he said, calling for sending "a message of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters of Christchurch. It's our religious and moral obligation to extend a helping hand to them in this time of need.
"They are us. We should no longer look at anyone else as 'they,' but rather look to all as 'us.' Every house of worship should be a safe place of worship, theological reflection, hope and healing," he said.
"When one faith community is attacked, we are all attacked. None of us can truly worship God freely until we all can worship God freely," said Mamdouh, who, in his 33 years in Spokane, he has not experienced any issues related to practicing his religion.
"I'm sure none of the brothers and sisters killed March 15 thought this would ever happen to them in Christchurch," he said. "If it could happen in Christchurch, it can happen anywhere. I turn to my creator the Almighty for help. I submit my affairs to God."
Since the shooting the Spokane community—neighbors, colleagues, interfaith partners and friends—has offered "overwhelming support and love." Police and law enforcement expressed their commitment to the safety and security of the Muslim community, he said.
"We received many phone calls and emails. People showed up at our mosque with flowers and cards, but most of all with their love and support," Mamdouh said. "We feel the community's love. We appreciate all the support we have received.
"We ask you to raise your voices against all social ills that grip our communities and societies. Send a clear message that we oppose all forms of hate, bigotry, racism and Islamophobia," he said. "Let everyone know that we value and invite inclusion, respect and decency for all people."
Mamdouh quoted from the Quran: "O mankind! We created you from a single person, males and females, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety (righteousness). Allah is All-Knowing, All Aware."
He also quoted a letter from a Chinese Muslim woman to the killer, observing that, contrary to his motives of division, the tragedy brought churches and communities together to stand with Muslims.
Two Gonzaga students, Hawa Elias, a senior in economics and international relations, and Aisha Burka, a sophomore in business and computers, shared reflections.
"From the time I was young," said Hawa, "I was confused about how the religion that brought me serenity could cause such hate."
Her parents didn't need to warn her what she faced. She knew.
"The love in my heart is my way to resist hate," she said.
Aisha is impressed with how the trauma inflicted out of racism and white supremacy that led to the attacks has led people to come together as community.
She hopes that the pain does not become normal, but that "we will move to action to be active allies."
Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein of the Gonzaga Religious Studies faculty and two members of the Jewish Bulldogs then read a prayer by Rabbi Naomi Levi for the victims of the massacre.
"All are loved in God's eyes," the rabbi said, praying for the safety and protection of brothers and sisters of all faiths, for the dead and those left behind. She read: "God help us join as people to put an end to hatred and gun violence." The prayer also called for turning helplessness to action, because "innocent blood calls out."
Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience (FLLC) members read a statement, signed by 19 individuals and organizations at the Spokane Islamic Center. The Rev. Rick Matters of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Kennewick, the Rev. Joan Broeckling of One Peace Many Paths, and Rabbi Tamar Malino of Temple Beth Shalom and Congregation Emanu-el read the statement as the group stood with them.
"We stand in deepest sorrow with you, our Muslim neighbors and friends. We weep and mourn the 51 Muslim children, women, and men who were killed in a horrific act of violence as they gathered peacefully for Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. 2019. We share the global condemnation of this and all similar acts of violence. We join with our Muslim neighbors and friends in prayer."
"We call all people of faith and conscience to join us in listening to those hurt and threatened by anti-Muslim bigotry. We stand in solidarity with the American Muslim Institution's (AMI) recent statement, proclaiming that: "We join Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in condemning the worst terrorist attacks ever in one of the most peaceful and welcoming countries in the world. We join all peace-loving New Zealanders in mourning with the families over the loss of the victims of this senseless and hate-filled attack. Islamophobia, hate, and xenophobia have no place in New Zealand nor any other country in the world."
"We stand together in the compassion that is rooted in each of our different religious and moral traditions. We declare that all humans are neighbors and deserve love and respect. Love for every human being will triumph over hate. We offer comfort to our American Muslim neighbors and join them in sorrow and outrage. We love you and hold each of you as precious to the fullness of our country and our communities. You belong with us and we with you.
"We will persist in the higher way of compassion known in many practices and by many names. May we gain the needed strength, even while we grieve, to be transformed from fear to love, from division to unity, from desperation to hope. Let us recommit to shaping a world of respect, tolerance, safety, and peace for all. No exceptions," the statement concluded.
Rabbi Tamar Malino added a word of deepest sympathy from the Jewish community as she presented a copy of the FLLC statement to Mamdouh.
For information, contact Brian Siebeking at GU at 313-6789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, the Spokane Islamic Center at 482-2608 or spokaneislamiccenter.org, or FLLC at 408-593-9556.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, April, 2019