Thousands of Muslims attended weekly services at the Islamic Association of Raleigh on Friday, saddened by news of deadly terrorist attacks at two mosques in New Zealand, but determined to worship as usual.
“Of course the natural reaction is fear,” said Imran Aukhil, a member of and spokesman for the mosque. “But we can’t let fear paralyze us. More than ever, we need to know that the mosque is a place of healing. The mosque is a place of community gathering. We need to be more engaged in worship than ever, not less.”
The IAR has long been surrounded by security fencing and has a Raleigh police officer on the grounds to protect children attending school at the mosque. On Friday, additional officers were posted.
According to the Associated Press, 49 people were killed when a gunman went into two mosques Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a carefully planned attack. At least 20 more were seriously injured, the AP said.
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The shootings were traumatic far beyond the mosques where they happened because the gunman used a helmet-mounted camera and live-streamed the attack on Facebook. It was reposted on other social media platforms.
“It’s hard to see that and now cower in your home,” Aukhil said.
The Islamic Association of Raleigh joined world leaders in condemning the attack and what Aukhil cited as the increasingly strident white-supremacist language of politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere. The alleged shooter issued a manifesto deriding Muslims and immigrants, police said.
“These attacks were inspired by the continuing anti-Muslim and white nationalist rhetoric that has now come out of the fringes and into accepted discourse around the world,” the mosque said in a statement.
Friday at a mosque is like Sunday for mainstream Christianity, and the growing facility on the border of N.C. State University holds three services to accommodate worshipers.
They crowded in on Friday as always, coming from work, from home or from school to hear a 30-minute sermon and kneel together in responsive prayer.
Media were allowed to observe the service, but were asked not to interview members.
Aukhil said churches from across the area reached out Friday to offer sympathy and support. For now, Aukhil said, the mosque asks that people not come to the building unless they have business there, but to learn about Islam and talk with followers they might meet as they go about their lives.
“We are part and parcel of this community,” Aukhil said.
The mosque estimates that 30,000 to 50,000 Muslims live in the Triangle area. Aukhil said 10,000 to 15,000 attend peak holiday services at the Islamic Association of Raleigh, and several thousands attend regular weekly services there.
As they filed into the mosque on Friday, he said, “We are constantly reminded to do good, because there is no assurance of tomorrow.”