Local politicians and public figures are expressing their condolences and are offering their words of support to London’s Muslim community in the wake of the shooting massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand.
At least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers in an attack carried out by a white nationalist wielding at least two assault rifles and a shotgun.
One man was arrested and charged with murder, and two other armed suspects were taken into custody while police tried to determine what role they played.
In the wake of the shooting, the London Muslim Mosque said it would be taking increased security measures to keep its congregation safe.
The mosque reached out to London Police Chief John Pare and requested police presence at the mosque, Medway Arena, and at the YMCA for Friday prayers, said executive director Aarij Anwer.
“We’re trying to increase our safety measures to make sure everyone is safe,” he said. “We’re posting best practices for safety purposes. We have a consultant actually on site right now who is giving us these best practices and evaluating our security.”
Anwer acknowledged increasing security while keeping the facility accessible was a difficult balance to strike. A public forum will be held at the mosque at 7:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the tragedy and heal. All are welcome, Anwer said.
Earlier in the day Friday, Pare and London Mayor Ed Holder attended the mosque to speak to the congregation following prayer.
Holder said he was shocked and saddened by the news, and joins others around the world in condemning the horrific act of terror. “No one should ever have to go into a place of worship in fear,” he said.
“What’s really clear is you are us. We’re in this together, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim community in this very stressful, horrible, painful time.” The Canadian flag outside city hall is being flown at half-mast in the wake of the massacre.
Pare said it was important that the police service shows it stands with London’s Muslim community.
“It’s amazing when these events happen and how communities really come together,” he said. “I think that’s what’s important, that we all show our support and stand in solidarity and recognize there is no place for hatred.”
Holder and Pare’s comments are just some of the words of support the London Muslim Mosque says it has received since news of the shooting emerged.
“We’re amazed and really touched by the people who are coming and visiting us and bringing us flowers and messages of condolences and prayers,” Anwer said. “We can’t thank them enough for those messages and thoughts.”
Anwer said among those offering their condolences was a New Zealand-born Londoner who came to the mosque with flowers.
“It was a really touching moment,” he said. “It tells us that even in these dark times there’s always good in the world.”
Speaking on the Craig Needles Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL Friday, Dr. Munir El-Kassem of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario said he too has received many emails of condolences and support from people of other faith positions.
“I’m sure that everyone in the world is shaking, is trying to grasp the real dimensions of this tragedy, of this crime.
“We have to admit that Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism, like all forms of hatred, kill,” he said. “They are the same reasons that had the crimes committed at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, is the same as the crime that was committed in Quebec City.”
El-Kassem said he worried the massacre will establish a pattern where people of faith see places of worship as being unsafe.
With files from The Associated Press