Bay Area Muslims, Allies Come Together After Deadly New Zealand Mosque Attack

4 min
Fatima Hansia (center front) leads an interfaith vigil at the Islamic Center of Mill Valley in 49 seconds of silence to honor the victims of the deadly shootings in New Zealand. (Olivia Obineme/KQED)

A day after at least 50 Muslim worshippers were killed and dozens more injured in two attacks at mosques in New Zealand, Bay Area Muslims and their supporters gathered to offer comfort and show solidarity.

"We stand together against violence and vow to practice peace towards each other," said Khadija Hansia, speaking to more than 100 people at a Friday night vigil at the Islamic Center of Mill Valley. "We stand together because we are stronger together."

Hansia organized the interfaith vigil with her sister, Fatima, after hearing about the deadly attack on Friday morning and wondering if her community would feel safe coming together for jumah, the collective Friday afternoon prayer that often brings together hundreds of worshippers to pray.

Khadija Hansia organized the interfaith vigil at the Islamic Center of Mill Valley with her sister, Fatima.
Khadija Hansia organized the interfaith vigil at the Islamic Center of Mill Valley with her sister, Fatima. (Olivia Obineme/KQED)

"I thought it was important to hold a space for everybody to know and understand that we're part of this community, we're here to stay and hopefully we're safe as well," she said.

Speakers at the interfaith vigil highlighted the shared humanity of all people, regardless of religion, calling an attack on Muslims an attack on everyone.

"God is not a Jew. I'm a Jew," said Rabbi Paul Steinberg of Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon. "God was not a Christian or a Muslim. God is much greater than all of that. God can hold all of us."

Ashley Reid of the Marin Interfaith Council called on those in attendance to not just share in the Muslim community's grief, but to "interrupt" oppression by calling out hate speech in their own communities.

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"Terrorists don't magically appear," Reid told the crowd. "They are taught to hate. So that means we need to be interruptors of this hate and respond with truth and love."

The vigil closed with Fatima Hansia leading the group in 49 seconds of silence while 49 people held candles in honor of those who died in the New Zealand shootings.

After the vigil, Fatima said that it's important for people to avoid allowing the tragedy to make the numb to Islamaphobia and other acts of discrimination and hatred.

"If you don't take a stand, if you don't use your voice, if you don't use your privilege then things like this are continuing to happen, and you have to do something about it" she said.

More than a hundred people gathered in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Mill Valley in the aftermath of the deadly shootings in New Zealand.
More than a hundred people gathered in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Mill Valley in the aftermath of the deadly shootings in New Zealand. (Olivia Obineme/KQED)

UC Berkeley student Hafsa Baporia said she was frustrated throughout the day at what she felt was a lack of support from non-Muslims following the shooting. But she was pleasantly surprised that the Mill Valley vigil — her third vigil of the day — attracted such a large and diverse group of attendees.

"In the past, there's been times where I would hold onto that image of seeing someone that looks nothing like me supporting me for months," Baporia said. "If I feel ever uncomfortable or if I ever feel scared, I try to hold onto those moments. And I would say that tonight was one of those moments that I will try treasure and keep close to me if I'm ever feeling scared."

Earlier in the day, worshippers gathered at the Islamic Society of San Francisco for jumah, including Ruby Alvi, a doctor from Toronto who was visiting San Francisco with her husband and daughter. She said seeing so many people come out to support her community made her hopeful, even in the aftermath of this tragedy.

"I'm glad I brought my 5-year-old daughter because that's what she needs to see," Alvi said. "That's the hope part in this, right?"

5-year-old Sophie Ahmed looks out while her mother Dr. Ruby Alvi (center in beige headscarf) is in prayer with fellow worshippers at the Islamic Society of San Francisco.
5-year-old Sophie Ahmed looks out while her mother Dr. Ruby Alvi (center in beige headscarf) is in prayer with fellow worshippers at the Islamic Society of San Francisco. (Olivia Obineme/KQED)

Vigils also took place on Friday in Oakland and Pleasanton, and additional vigils are planned for across the Bay Area over the weekend:

Saturday:

Sunday:

Monday:

This post has been updated.

KQED's Tiffany Camhi and Olivia Obineme contributed to this story.

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