After New Zealand Attack, Muslim Groups Focus on Security, Support
Two major U.S. Islamic groups are offering resources to local mosques with suggestions on both security and how to calm rattled nerves after last week’s mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Last week’s tragic mosque shootings in New Zealand, which killed 50 people and left dozens wounded, have U.S. mosques and Islamic centers on edge, but groups supporting these communities are working to help them respond.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS) are each sharing resources about how to address and properly handle the attention and concerns created by the mass shootings.
MAS, for one, has produced a toolkit that includes talking points to use with local congregations, tips on speaking to the media, and strategies for improving safety.
“We call on elected officials to condemn hate speech and fanning the flames of Islamophobia, putting even more people in harm’s way,” one such talking point says. “Violence against Muslims is on the rise, in no small part due to the hateful rhetoric which inevitably increases after such events.”
CAIR, meanwhile, will republish 3,000 copies of its “Best Practices for Mosque & Community Safety” guide [PDF] and send it to every mosque in the U.S. The guide includes strategies for re-evaluating an existing security plan, pinpointing vulnerabilities that might exist, and creating approaches to prevention and response mitigation. It also offers a checklist that focuses on building relationships with attorneys, law enforcement, political leaders, and the community at large.
“In pursuing better security, it is important to remember that these steps are only a starting point and that you should plan for the long-term by seeking the expertise of security professionals in the public or private sector,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in the document.
In separate statements last week, the two groups each said increased security was a priority.
“We have seen time and time again that the prevalence of hate speech and Islamophobic rhetoric have deadly consequences,” said MAS Executive Director Ayman Hammous in a news release after the attack. “The time and method by which these attacks were carried out are an unmistakable indication that they were intended to be as devastating as possible—an act of terrorism. Hate speech has a real, tangible human toll, and those propagating it must be held accountable.”
CAIR’s Awad emphasized that practicing Muslims should not turn away from their places of worship. “Do not be afraid and do not abandon your mosques. Not today. Not ever,” Awad said, according to The New York Times.
A scene from a vigil for victims of the Christchurch shooting in Melbourne, Australia. (Julian Meehan/Flickr)