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Praying in Fear

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Ferheen Abbasi

The Christchurch massacre of 50 people praying in a mosque shocked the world. But for local Muslims like Ferheen Abbasi, it was one of many events that have injected fear, anxiety and vulnerability into a routine act of worship.

If my family and I lived in Christchurch, New Zealand, my father may have died during the shooting. He has never willingly missed a Friday prayer. Fridays are sacred in my house. I can tell you his entire routine. He will get up, pray Fajr, make chai, take a shower, trim his beard, go to work for a few hours, come home and then be out the door for Jummah prayer no later than 1:05 p.m. He will come home at exactly 2:25 and as we eat a late lunch, he will tell us who the speaker was and what the Khutbah or surmon was about. We used to go as a family every Friday until my grandma moved in with us and isn’t as mobile anymore.

After 9/11, every single time I step into the Muslim Community Association, the local mosque, I have never failed to think about what I would do if a white supremacist came into the prayer room and started shooting. Every Jummah prayer, every Eid prayer, every Ramadan Taraweeh prayer, I have thought about this. Thousands of people would get hurt. I'm not over exaggerating. Thousands of people come to the MCA every week. Would I try to escape? Which door? But what would happen if it happened while we were in prayer? Would I break it? Just like many of the victims in the Christchurch shooting, my dad would probably continue praying and it might be the last time I see him.

What happened in New Zealand could happen at the MCA and I'm scared. Scared for my community and scared for my dad. And I'm angry about the Islamophobic rhetoric that is so pervasive in our society. White nationalist propaganda, including the distribution of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic fliers, rose by 182 percent in 2018. The white supremacist in New Zealand was empowered by this hatred and chose to end the lives of 50 innocent people, including 3-year-old Mucad. We need allies to stand up with us, to call out racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia when it happens, and to resist white supremacy so that no one else is killed due to senseless hatred.

With a Perspective, I’m Ferheen Abbasi.


Ferheen Abbasi is a pre-med UC, Berkeley graduate living in the South Bay.

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