Following the tragedy in New Zealand last week, the Islamic Society of Greater Syracuse held a vigil at the Mosque to Jesus, Son of Mary over the weekend. Words of comfort from seven local religious leaders were offered to members of the Syracuse community gathered at Masjid Isa Ibn Maryam on Saturday in remembrance of the 50 people who were killed attending Jummah in an attack by a white supremacist in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Local leaders spoke before a crowd of about 150 to provide context and comfort. Local educator and community leader Dr. Yusuf Soule convened with a prayer and 49 seconds of silence.
“From God we come and to him we shall return. We also say may alas upon what Allah; may God grant that person paradise and forgive their sins.”
Imam Muris Neimarlija expressed concern over the normalization of heightened security around places of worship.
“Yesterday I was happy when some of my friends sent me a bottle… I was happy because we felt safe. But, at the same time I was scared, do we really need protection in this country? Anyone, not just Muslims... new churches. Do we all need protection from someone?"
Muris added that he believed that new generations are radicalized when societies fail to properly condemn the actions of perpetrators who came before. Muris, who is a member of the Bosnian diaspora, cited a song which the shooter played in his car during the livestreamed attack, which had been an anthem of Serbian Nationalism during the Bosnian War. The lyrics mentioned Radovan Karadžić a former Serbian leader and convicted war criminal.
“When he entered the car, he put the music. There was one song and when I heard that song and I heard the name of one criminal who’s still not punished for his crimes for genocide; my blood started boiling, I got shivers."
The attack in Christchurch reignited anxieties for the Muslim community in Central New York, after learning in January of an attempted bombing in Islamberg, a Muslim community near Albany. Despite this, Soule insists that the Muslim community in Syracuse remains fearless.
“Somebody asked me yesterday, were people scared to come to the mosque? No, it was more full more than usual, he said you had hundreds of millions, probably a billion of people, praying for the people who were murdered in New Zealand during Jummah, the Muslim holy day; so everything happens for a reason. I don’t think anybody’s scared.”