A metro Muslim leader said his faith community won’t cower in fear in the wake of a deadly shooting spree at two New Zealand mosques.
“The precautions are always there but this will not scare us,” Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said Sunday.
“We’re saddened — we’re heartbroken for the victims and their families — but at the same time, this increases our resilience to stand up for truth and to stand against bigotry and xenophobia.”
Enchassi’s remarks came during the “United for Christchurch” interfaith prayer vigil held Sunday at the Islamic Society’s Mercy Mission Building, 3480 N St. Clair Ave.
The prayer service drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 400 to show solidarity in the face of the New Zealand terror attacks. Forty-nine people were shot to death by a gunman who opened fire during communal prayer at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques on Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand. A 50th victim died later at a Christchurch hospital.
Names and pictures of the Christchurch victims were shown on a large screen as speakers shared words of comfort and prayers. They represented different faith traditions and advocacy groups including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Bahai’ Faith, Black Lives Matter, Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Conference of Churches, Dialogue Institute of the Southwest-Oklahoma City, Council on American-Islamic Relations and Surayya Anne Foundation-Oklahoma City.
Muslim leaders said they were grateful for the community support.
“Look around. If this crowd doesn’t say that love wins today, I don’t know what does,” Enchassi said, causing attendees to erupt in applause.
Enchassi also praised Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty for being one of the first to offer aid, and he urged the crowd to applaud the police who provided security both inside and outside the Mercy Mission Building and the Islamic Society’s adjacent mosque.
Kuaybe Basturk, a Dialogue Institute board member and the event’s emcee, said she had to explain to her children what happened at the New Zealand mosques and her oldest son cried and shook as he wondered how someone could gun down people who were praying. She said she expected him to be waiting anxiously for her to arrive home safely from the prayer vigil.
“This is not the way we should raise our children. I shouldn’t feel this way when I’m out somewhere wearing my scarf,” Basturk said.
In a particularly poignant presentation, Michael Korenblit, co-founder of the Respect Diversity Foundation, read off the names of several victims of the mosque shootings, interspersing them with the names of two black people killed outside a grocery store in Kentucky in October 2018; Jewish people killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue, also in October 2018; and some of his Jewish relatives who were killed by Nazis during the Holocaust.
The victims were of different races, religions and ethnicities but they had one thing in common — they were killed by people fueled by hate and white supremacy, Korenblit, the son of Holocaust survivors, told the crowd.
Like most of the speakers before him, Korenblit urged those gathered to continue to love and support one another and do their part to counter division and demonization of the “other.”
Along those lines, Lori Walke, associate pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church UCC and Oklahoma Conference of Churches vice president, said hate will not have the final say as long as people love and support one another, realizing that “We need all of us to make it.”
“The words in the (gunman’s) manifesto were of fear and violence and white supremacy but he will not have the last word,” she said.
“Love has the last word.”