Hundreds of community members, politicians and activists of all faiths gathered in solidarity last week after an anti-Muslim terrorist attack in New Zealand devastated communities across the country.
The Christchurch, New Zealand massacre claimed 50 lives and injured at least 50 others on Friday, March 15. An identified gunman, 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant of Australia, reportedly left behind a 74-page manifesto that expressed anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments and praised President Donald Trump as a symbol of “renewed White identity.”
In response, ISAIAH, a non-partisan coalition of faith communities fighting for racial and economic justice, hosted a “Muslim Solidarity Gathering” on March 16 at the Dar Al Farooq Center in Bloomington. The two-hour event was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, with many sitting on the floor and finding standing room in the center’s gym, with those looking to make sense of the tragedy.
“I woke up like so many of you, devastated and heartbroken yesterday morning about the news from New Zealand,” said Rep. Melissa Hortman. “Another senseless act of violence targeted at Muslims. We grieve with you today and we stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
The Dar Al Farooq Center held special significance for the event, as it was a victim of a terrorist attack two years ago. The community came out in 2017 to stand with members of the center after the mosque was attacked with a pipe bomb.
The community once again stood together to show the strength and endurance of the members of the Dar Al Farooq Center, its supporters, and the larger Twin Cities community. The gathering’s leaders encouraged people in attendance to talk to people they didn’t know around them to help build a larger community focused on love and understanding.
“I always say love trumps hate, but it begins with each individual person,” reflected Rep. Ilhan Omar, who herself has been a target of anti-Muslim sentiment. “You can choose to have suspicions that ultimately become hate, or you can have a curiosity develop that turns into love.”
The massacre came just days after ISAIAH’s Muslim coalition hosted a press conference to address Islamophobia and how it affects Muslim Minnesotans. “Islamophobia is real and has real implications,” said the coalition in a statement on Friday.
“Let us take seriously the consequences of maligning an entire community for political points or viewership rates,” the statement urged. “Yesterday’s murder of at least 49 people and dozens more injured is proof of Islamophobia’s impact.
“We remain committed to partner together with our neighbors to end Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and xenophobia, both near and far.”
Editor’s note: In related news, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) -MN will host a Challenging Islamophobia Conference on Thurs., March 28 at Metropolitan State University. The event was planned prior to the New Zealand shootings.
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Chris Juhn is a contributing photographer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.