The Muslim Community Interfaith Vigil opened with an introduction. Not from the speaker, but one among neighbors, sitting closely packed together at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond. The room grew loud with people shaking hands and comrades sharing thoughts.
Muslims, Christians, Jews and faith leaders from around King County joined together for a vigil at the Redmond mosque on March 18 following the terrorist shooting attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Fifty people were killed and 50 more were injured after the assailant opened fire on Muslims worshiping during the Friday prayer on March 15.
“You have broken many, many hearts…and you have left the hate growing,” Sheikh Abdirahman Kaariye of the Islamic Center of Bothell said at the vigil, addressing the shooter. “But what you have also done, you have brought us closer together and strengthened our faith and resolve. And in the coming weeks, more people will turn up in the mosques, a place you hate so much.”
When word spread of last week’s shooting, MAPS was flooded with support in the forms of flowers and messages of solidarity from elected officials and community members.
This support continued at this week’s vigil. There was police presence outdoors as people flooded into the mosque long before the 7 p.m. start time. More than 1,000 people showed up for the teach-in — so many that the doors had to be closed and late arrivals were turned away from the event.
Outside of the mosque, signs were handed out, reading, “We stand with our Muslim neighbors.”
Many of those who spoke conveyed this thought.
“Until we decided that we will not shed tears for some people and not for others, our faith is incomplete — and perhaps inauthentic,” said Rev. Kelle Brown of Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle. “For where there is pain, we must remember that we are citizens of the world. We are global citizens and we are to be in solidarity with all people.”
Rabbi David Basior of Seattle’s Kadima Reconstructionist Community wanted to convey the Jewish community’s love and embrace for “their Muslim siblings.”
“We see you. We are with you. We are you,” he said. “I stand here today to tell you my Muslim siblings that we are one and none of the heinous, violent acts of racism and xenophobia will keep us from pursuing a ‘we’ that includes us all.”
Parallels were drawn from speakers, comparing the Christchurch shooting to the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue incident. The support the Jewish community received then was being reciprocated now.
“These forms of hate and bigotry are all connected,” said Aneelah Afzali, executive director of MAPS’ American Muslim Empowerment Network. “We have this common enemy of white nationalism, hate rhetoric. This hate speech leads to hate actions and the consequences we’re seeing today.”
But it wasn’t solely thoughts and prayers at the event. The latter half of the evening was reserved for Afzali’s anti-Islamophobia teach-in and call to action. She schooled attendees on root causes for Islamophobia and the steps needed to eliminate it.
More steps will happen later this spring. The Redmond mosque will have an open house in April and other events to follow for people to get to know their Muslim neighbors. Afzali hopes this will help to combat Islamophobia.
“The (attack) is something that we will respond to with solidarity, unity, love and hopefully taking action, so we go beyond thoughts and prayers and solidarity…to make sure we don’t have more of these horrific atrocities,” Afzali said.