After Brenton Tarrant scored a trail of hate and violence through 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, as a Muslim I feared what kind of turmoil would erupt as a response – more specifically, I feared that there would be a backlash of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment. It’s not a stretch - islamophobia runs rampant all over the world including the US. And it seems more intensified in the Trump Era. However, in just 24 hours my fears were allayed by an outpouring of love and support that deluged the Muslim community in a flood that washed away so much of the muck and mire of bigotry and anguish. The evening of the Christchurch tragedy, I jumped on a conference call to organize a vigil the next evening at Masjid Abu Bakr, a large mosque here in Metro Denver. It was a quick call – we had fast business to do – but little did I know how huge the consequence would be. Saturday came and as I approached the mosque at 5pm, I felt a swelling in my heart, seeing the parking lot overflowing with cars. Inside, I found the musallah (prayer area) of the mosque was already jampacked with people –most of them not even Muslim!
The musallah is generally reserved for men – a women’s musallah occupies a room with a balcony overlooking the main musallah – but on this evening, it was divided with women sitting on the floor on the right side, men on the left. On each side, among familiar faces, I saw many who I could tell were not Muslim but were there as a show of support and love. Dear Reader, I cannot convey how electric the room felt, or how it was such a beautiful kaleidoscope of color (especially from the head-scarves) and skin tones. The mosque had a multipurpose room that served as an overflow room, but everyone who came wanted to squeeze into the musallah no matter how crowded it was.
Dr Sadikia Ali served as the “usher” but soon her job became “flood-gate” as she gently held back the swelling crowd at the doorway. Then, the event officially started and the speakers took to the mic – and the place got more electric. Congressman James Crow spoke first with a passion that served as the catalyst for those that followed. Then, three African American clergy from area churches brought “black church” into the mosque with amazing speeches. When they were done it was like the aftermath of a rock concert – all 3 shared a theme of standing up for each other despite differences when the goal is to spread the light of love.
Next, a sister from the Sikh community spoke words of brotherhood that rocked me, knowing the historical contentious relationship of Muslims and Sikhs in India, and the irony of islamophobic attacks mistakenly aimed at Sikhs. Then, 2 of the guest rabbis spoke and the message of “love beats hate” was driven home with a sledgehammer. It was pointed out, and should not be lost, that many Jews responded to this tragedy as a “pay-it-forward” reciprocal to how Muslim groups supported the Jewish community after the horrific attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg last October. Indeed, not only did so many Jewish men and women show up at the vigil, they came on Shabbat (Sabbath), a time where they would usually avoid leaving home – much less trek to a mosque.
One rabbi attended and attended to his religious duties - by walking 4 miles to the vigil! Even as the event winded down, many more Jewish neighbors came after nightfall, when Shabbat was officially over – I stayed longer than I intended just to be there as a host for those who trickled in.
When I did finally leave, I feeling like “love beats hate” (a phrased coined by fellow activist, vigil organizer, and friend Brother Jeff (Fard)) was indeed more than a fluffy feel-good phrase. In the Quran, God says that He created people with differences so that they could “know each other” – not fight and kill each other. That night, I witnessed different people come together to shine and heal in the light of unity – and I knew more than ever how love is such a purpose.
Note from Forgive Everyone Founder:
Forgive Everyone is dedicated to building love and forgiveness in all communities, no matter the religious affiliation. Inter-faith dialogue and community is key to building a world of unity and love. Forgive Everyone. Give love to everyone. We are everyone.