Police Departments amped up their presence at Eastside mosques in response to a terrorist attack on March 15 at Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Many are wounded and at least 50 were killed during the targeted shooting on Muslims.
In Redmond, police patrolled the Islamic Center of Redmond and the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) Friday, keeping an eye and examining closely any suspicious behavior. The Friday afternoon prayer typically draws a large group at MAPS. Extra officers were added to what would typically be traffic control at the mosque.
“At this point policing is precautionary and we’re here to really to support our Muslim community,” said Andrea Wolf-Buck, public engagement coordinator with the Redmond Police Department. “It’s a petty awful day for everyone.”
She added that people are encouraged to be vigilant and report any strange activity to the police.
The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) echoed that sentiment, and has been working with law enforcement, officials and mosque leaders to ensure safety was secured in county mosques.
“Obviously this is a time of tragedy and trauma in the community,” said Aneelah Aszali, executive director of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound’s American Muslim Empowerment Network. “We are heartbroken over our sisters and brothers who were killed in New Zealand.”
Aszali also was inspired, she said, by the outpouring of love and support the Redmond mosque received.
Many letters, phone calls, emails and statements of solidarity have flooded the organization. People showed up with flowers and Gov. Jay Inslee put in a phone call of support.
“They showed the beauty of humanity in a time of catastrophe,” Aszali said.
County Council Chair Rod Dembowski offered words in light of the tragedy.
“King County extends to our Muslim friends and neighbors condolences for the victims and families of the terrorist attacks at mosques in New Zealand,” he said. “We will continue to steadfastly support and foster a community that respects all people of all faiths and we will fight back against anyone and any group that works to undermine our commitment to a peaceful and loving community that respects, honors, and celebrates the promise of religious and political freedoms on which our country was founded.”
At MAPS on Friday, Aszali said she noticed a slight decline in attendance numbers, she speculates because of Friday’s attack. But the building began to fill as the day went on.
Among those in attendance was a concerned congregant, a mother who tried to shield her children from the news of the mosque attack. When they heard about what happened, her children questioned why something so horrible would occur. She didn’t have an answer to give them, she said.
The family came to the mosque to find the answer from religious leaders. But they also found a sense of community to help make sense of the tragedy.
“Being there, together in unity, seeing support from the wider community, she realized how much she needed something like that,” Aszali said.
On Monday, an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims of the New Zealand mosque massacre was held at Redmond MAPS. It was followed by a teach-in about combating Islamophobia, giving the tools to get at the root of the problem, Aszali said.
Forms of hate and bigotry expressed toward people from marginalized groups are all connected, she said, and have the common enemy of white nationalism. But it’s the support of different communities coming together that helps people in moving forward.
“Communal manifestations of kindness are far stronger than instances of hate,” she said. “I remain hopeful … and will continue to move forward.”