Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Mercy, compassion and kindness:’ UMass community comes out in support of Muslim community after the Christchurch attack

Muslim Students Association hosts vigil after New Zealand attack

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‘Mercy, compassion and kindness:’ UMass community comes out in support of Muslim community after the Christchurch attack

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

By Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg, Translations Editor

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Following a terrorist attack on two New Zealand mosques last week, a vigil held in solidarity with the Muslim community filled almost every seat in the Commonwealth Honors College on Monday night.

The University of Massachusetts Muslim Students Association organized the event, and the group’s co-president, Sana Gilani, greeted them all.

“Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu” – May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be with you, too – Gilani said.

The vigil commemorated those whose lives were lost, but also to “come together as a community to pray and cope with this tragedy affecting our Muslim brothers and sisters worldwide,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

The MSA came up with the idea for the remembrance on Friday night. By Saturday, the club had managed to secure a room.

At 7 p.m., the event began with speeches from members of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities, as well as Students for Justice in Palestine, the Interfaith Opportunities Network and the UMass administration.

Gilani, a senior electrical engineering major, told the attendees that the event was about more than this specific shooting; that it was about people being murdered for being Muslim and, more broadly, about Islamophobia.

“It is horrific and unfair,” Gilani told the crowd. “But this is what hate can do.”

She added, “I don’t want my fellow MSA members to stand up here again.”

MSA Co-President Raya Husami, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major, then spoke the names of some of the lives lost. She spoke about 71-year old Daoud Nabi, who died while greeting the shooter into a mosque with “Hello, brother.”

“I could not imagine welcoming someone in my place of worship and be responded to with deep hatred,” Husami said.

Husami ended her speech saying that the Muslim community will continue to be “unapologetically Muslim” and practice “mercy, compassion and kindness.”

Junior engineering major Nabeel Areiqat spoke next. Citing verse 2:214 from the Quran, he encouraged the audience not to be deterred by hate.

“We should not be afraid to go any houses of worship, even though anyone who has hate wants us to be,” Areiqat said.

He then thanked all non-Muslims in attendance for showing their support and “solidarity.”

Yasmine El-Kattan, a freshman engineering major, shared an early experience of Islamophobia in the United States.

El-Kattan recalled a moment when she was nine years old in a store where she felt that “all the eyes” were upon her. When she realized that it was because she was wearing a hijab on her head, she asked her father if she could remove it.

“No, don’t take it off,” El-Kattan remembers her father saying. “You’re representing Islam…Welcome them with open arms.”

Nora Cameron, as a representative for SJP, called for an end to white supremacy.

“It strips us from an unjust world,” the senior public health major said.

Rabbi Aaron Fine, executive director of UMass Hillel, stated that the attack was “an affront to not only Muslims, but all good people and the soul.”

According to the MSA co-presidents Fine was one of the first people to send an email after the attack.

Fine urged the audience to stand in power and define humanity “in good news and generosity.”

“We don’t have the power to change everything, but we have the power to shape our reality,” Fine said. “The power is ten-fold when we do it together.”

Due to an out-of-state visit, Chancellor Subbaswamy was not in attendance. His Chief of Staff, Rolanda Burney, spoke in his place.

Burney said that Subbaswamy condemns all forms of hatred.

“We add our voice to those worldwide who reject hate,” Burney said.

Amar Paratha, a UMass alum, said that he appreciated this event because, “when events like this [the Christchurch shooting] happen, the focus can be on the tragedy, but the positive of the communities coming together [at this event] is also important.

“When something like this happens, you feel alone…but seeing the support here, it means a lot,” Paratha said.

The event ended with Maghrib, the sunset prayer.

Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg can be reached at [email protected]

4 Comments

4 Responses to “‘Mercy, compassion and kindness:’ UMass community comes out in support of Muslim community after the Christchurch attack”

  1. NITZAKHON on March 19th, 2019 11:39 am

    The massacre at the mosques was precisely that – a massacre of people at prayer: a horror.

    How did the “Palestinians” act when a three month old girl, Hadas Fogel, along with most of her family, were stabbed to death in their home?

    They celebrated, handing out candy.

  2. amy on March 19th, 2019 12:27 pm

    I am going to post a controversial opinion.. and it will probably get censored.

    Violence begets violence. Islam is a violent religion, its a violent culture, their countries are violent. Every single country in the world which is predominately Islam is now or the past 10 years embroiled in some war or conflict and every country where Muslims have a significant population there is regular terrorism(not just Europe, but also India, Philippines). You could say which is obvious not all muslims are terrorists, but as a group they have a huge incident violence and terrorism that is not comparable to anyone else. It’s part of their religion, their theocracies, belief system and even polling shows that 1/3 Muslim support sharia law or terrorism. Shara law includes murder/life imprisonment for being homosexual. You could argue the way that Islam treats gays, transsexuals,other religions and in some cases women is terrorism. Far more homosexuals are killed annually by Muslims than were in this attack.

    I am not the only one who thinks this and I am not some ‘white male’ racist. I am friends with muslims in the community(although they are afraid to speak publicly) and they even agree with me and are ashamed with the violence and brutality associated with Islam. There is a major reform movement happening which is rarely discussed by the media to change Islam and to make it modern, secular and progressive. Islam and Muslims need to learn how to adapt to secular cultures, how to respect other cultures, how to respect homosexuality and how to just calm down.

    Violence begets violence, be it some wacko who wants to take matters into his own hand after the repetitive and non-stop acts of terrorism by muslims, or the united states military or europe bombing muslim nations to contain them after terrorist attacks or israel responding to aggression by Iranian muslism who vow to ‘exterminate jews’ or crackdown in europe after terrorist attacks. Muslims will always face violent, i.e ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ until they reform and change their ways.

    It’s a two way street. Wackos like in New Zealand should be prosecuted, but Islam needs to change its ways too.

  3. NITZAKHON on March 19th, 2019 12:29 pm

    In the last few weeks over 120 Christians have been slaughtered, some by machetes.

    Where is the vigil for them?

  4. amy on March 21st, 2019 1:57 pm

    NITZAKHON it’s a double standard for Muslims. They are the biggest purveyor of violence and terrorism in the world and likely the most violent people in world history. Islam was founded by a crazed leader who thought god told him to kill jews, preach a religion and spread Islam by the sword.

    There is around 5,000 terrorist attacks a year and how many do you think are islamic? Over 90 percent. It’s a problem group which if the society had voted upon allowing muslims into our country or other countries it is very likely that the consensus would be to not let them in.

    In the majority of european countries, over 60 percent do not want muslim immigrants, similar polls in India and around the 2016 election, exit polls showed the same thing. Same thing with China, there is very low support for their muslim population.

    It’s common sense with a people who although ‘not all are terrorists’ have very high rates of terrorism, don’t assimilate and practice a primitive religion/ideology that includes things like child marriage and pedophilia as well as extreme intolerance to homosexuals, jews and non-muslims that you are not going to want this group in your country. There is way any rational person could believe this type of group could be successful or fit in well in the USA or western civilization. They are just a problem group even if it’s only a portion of the population. You could bring in another group say french immigrants or eastern europeans and your not going to get the terrorism, the child marriage, the pedophilia, the extreme intolerance towards homosexuals, Christianity,etc.

    What is happening now with Islam now is this. They move to western countries, with that terrorists and radical/extreme Islamic groups move in, they spread ideology and this results in one of two things. 1. Islamic(after they moved here) then moving out and going to middle-east to join some terrorist group 2. Committing some crude form of terrorism be it bombing ,driving people over with a car, knife stabbing. Terrorism is no longer limited to some group in the middle-east desert hiding in a cave with rockets and ak-47s; any Islamic person who is radicalized uses whatever he can access as a weapon. Knives, cars, guns, etc.

    Then after one of these terrorist attacks with the exception of the united states(although it was the case under obama), there is a tepid, weak response. It’s declared oh no it’s not terrorism, oh no your being an islamphobe, oh no lets support and hold hands with muslims in unity, oh no its mental illness, and remember most muslims are peaceful.

    After the weak response/lack of a solution, more terrorist attacks occur. People watch this , they see it, they see nothing is being done and so you get wackos like the guy in New Zealand.

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