Bay Ridge

Brooklyn Muslims shocked, angered by mosque massacre

March 15, 2019 Paula Katinas
Men pray at Masjid Al-Farooq during Eid al-Fitr in Downtown Brooklyn. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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“We’re numb,” said Enas Almadhwahi, a member of the Arab-American Association of New York, reacting to the massacre in two New Zealand mosques on Friday.

“If it can happen in a peaceful country like New Zealand, it can happen anywhere. This is a hate crime against Muslims,” Almadhwahi told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Brooklyn Muslims reacted to the events halfway around the world with shock, anger and a determination to spread a message of love to counteract the violence and hatred.

At press time, law enforcement authorities had three suspects in custody following a horrific attack in the city of Christchurch in which gunmen opened fire inside two mosques during prayers, killing 49 people and injuring several others.

“We pray five times a day. We are targets five times a day.”

Borough President Eric Adams was scheduled to pray at the Makki Masjid Muslim Community Center on Coney Island Avenue Friday afternoon to show his solidarity with the Muslim community.

The Arab-American Association, which operates out of offices on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, was closed Friday due to a previously scheduled staff training session. But Almadhwahi said the New Zealand tragedy would a major topic of conversation among members. “We will certainly be reflecting on what happened,” she said.

Cheikh Ahmed Mbareck, executive director of the Arab American Federation, Inc., said he heard about the New Zealand tragedy right after he finished his morning prayer at around 6:20 a.m.

“We are working with the rest of the Muslim community of New York on a common response. There are supposed to be a couple of events in response to the attack and for wise and productive management of the ongoing fever within our community that woke up to be surprised by a tragedy of such a magnitude in our Western world,” Mbareck told the Eagle in an email.

The Arab American Federation is an umbrella organization representing 17 different groups.

Mbareck expressed concern that the attacks would scare Muslims away from their local mosques.

“People are people. Many will be afraid to go to the today’s Friday prayer and many will not bother. I saw a friend of mine who posted that he is staying today at home and not going anywhere and asked others to stay home and reflect on how to address this tragedy,” he wrote.

Mohammed, a man who answered the phone Friday morning at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, a mosque in Fifth Avenue, shared that view. Mohammed, who asked that his last name not be used, said the mosque normally sees 600 members come to Friday prayers. “That number is going to be down today. We pray five times a day. We are targets five times a day,” he told the Eagle.

The horrific incident was “the result of Islamophobia,” Mohammed said. “There is so much hatred against Muslims in this world. They call us terrorists. But who is the real terrorist? Innocent people were killed when all they were doing was praying. Islam is about peace and love,” he said.

Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, issued a request to the NYPD to beef up patrols around the mosques in his district in the wake of the attacks.

That sounded like a good idea to Almadhwahi. “We want to feel safe,” she said.

Mbareck was confident that the NYPD would respond the needs of the Muslim community at this sorrowful and dangerous time.

“In general, we trust the abilities and readiness of NYPD. Therefore, we do not expect it to fall short. We have called on our community members to be vigilant and calm and to conduct their life as usual,” he told the Eagle.

Mohammad Razvi, CEO of the Council of Peoples Organization, a group based on Coney Island Avenue, issued a statement to the Eagle condemning the attack but added that New Zealand isn’t to blame.

“It saddens me to have to speak, yet again, in response to these types of violent acts against the Muslim communities. As tragic as this is, it is also important to note that this is not reflective of the people of New Zealand. New Zealand is a country which encourages the integration of different faiths and cultures. One individual does not speak for all, and cannot define an entire country. Neither can one individual deter Muslims from around the world of stepping out into the public sphere with their heads held high,” he stated.

Update (4:45 p.m.): This story has been updated to include a statement from Mohammad Razvi.

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