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'They Are Us, We Are Them' — Hundreds Gather At Utah Islamic Center To Mourn New Zealand Shooting

Photo of children at gathering.
Daysha Eaton
Children joined the gathering at the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy over the weekend.

Reciting from the Quran, Imam Shuaib Din’s melodious voice rang out in Arabic, in a prayer to Allah. The translation of his words were: “I seek refuge in God, from Satan,” he said. “I begin in the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most kind.”

Din called to the 200 or so mostly non-Muslim people gathered Sunday outside the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy to mourn victims of Friday’s mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques and to stand in solidarity with Utah’s Muslim community.

Photo of mourners.
Credit Daysha Eaton / KUER
Hundreds of people gathered at the Utah Islamic Center in Draper to mourn victims of the mass shooting at a New Zealand mosque.

The outpouring of love and grief took place at the temporary strip-mall home of the Islamic center, which serves about 2,000 Muslims living in the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley.

Din said the shooter’s actions have caused pain but they are also bringing communities together.

“In the coming weeks, more non-Muslims will turn up at the gates of mosques with fresh flowers and beautiful handwritten notes,” said Din. “They may not have known where the mosques in their area was, but now they do. All because of his actions.”

As he spoke, a tear rolled down the cheek of a young girl in a hijab carrying a bouquet of yellow freesias.

Among the other faith leaders was Rabbi Samuel Spector with Congregation Kol Ami who called for unity.

“We will not let hate divide us, but rather this is how we respond when people seek to point out our differences,” he said.

Amina Khan, a member of the congregation, read the names of some of the victims, including a 3-year-old.

“The victims, they are us, we are them,” she said. “These were people’s grandparents. They were people's mothers and fathers. These were children.”

Then leaders opened the microphone to the community.

Photo of Usmani.
Credit Daysha Eaton / KUER
Farukh Usmani attends mosque at the Utah Islamic Center. He spoke at the event urging those who came to speak out against extremism.

Farukh Usmani, who attends the mosque, said Utahns cannot be passive and must stand against extremism.

“We have to stand and speak up against bigotry, speak up against racism, speak up against xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism,” he said.

Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, who represents parts of Sandy in the Utah Legislature, praised a recently passed hate crimes law.

“It was an honor to be part of the Legislature that passed a hate crimes legislation because it is a time for love, it is a time for peace, and acceptance of all.”

Dawn Armstrong, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from Draper, said her 18-year-old son recently began a mission near where the shooting took place.

Photo of crying children.
Credit Daysha Eaton / KUER
Attendees listened tearfully as community members and leaders spoke.

“I was up at night when I heard about the terrible tragedy,” she said. “And I haven’t slept for days wondering how you can help.”

Towards the end of the event, Din read aloud some of the signs people held, such as “New Zealand is their home,” and “We stand with you.”

Afterward he explained how the events in New Zealand are affecting his congregation.

“The community becomes nervous, frightened. They feel vulnerable. They are afraid of copycat crimes,” he said. “They’re worried about their security, rightly so. About their families, their children.”

He said it’s easy to feel anger and other emotions, but feelings of anger must not turn into hatred.

He added that the outpouring of support is a comfort to the hundreds of Muslims who attend services at the mosque.

“What’s most disturbing is that this trend is not dying out,” he said. “Whether it is a place of worship or a school or a mall — these shootings are on the rise and that’s very disturbing for all of humanity.”

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