Cornell Tukiri / The New York Times

March 17, 2019

After New Zealand Attack on Muslims, Cornellians Heal Through Prayer, Support, and a Vigil

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Following the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a community vigil will be hosted on Monday from 5 – 6 p.m at the Muslim Chaplaincy in Ho Plaza. At the meanwhile, Cornellians have been coping with the tragedy through group prayer and discussion of issues that lead to the attack.

The attack, which resulted in at least 50 people killed and 50 wounded, specifically targeted Muslims in their place of worship, as evidenced in an 87-page anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim manifesto sent by the shooter to the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Office, according to CNN.

In the days since the incident, Yasin Ahmed, Cornell’s Muslim chaplain has led healing circles, special prayers and group reflections to help students and faculty to cope with the tragic events.

“The tragedy in New Zealand where 49 Muslims returned to Allah is heart breaking and a reminder to appreciate the ones we love,” Ahmed wrote in an email to the Muslim community after the attack.

Ahmed has also been coordinating with Cornell police to increase security on campus, such as having the Jummah room inspected before prayer and installing security in front of Anabel Taylor Hall for the duration of prayer ceremonies. These steps were precautionary, Ahmed said, because “we believe our community is completely safe.”

In response to the attacks, President Martha E. Pollack emailed the entire student body, calling on the Cornell community to “continue to reject the bigotry and hatred that underlie such acts, and we must continue, in our individual ways, to lead lives of kindness.”

Yahya Abdul-Basser ’20, president of Muslim Educational and Cultural Association for Cornell, captured the feelings of the Islamic community on campus. He described the numbness felt by himself and other members in the community in light of the attacks, especially because of the “jarring nature” of Islamophobia.

Abdul-Basser stated that he appreciates Pollack’s email, as well as the support and kind messages from the Cornell community at large.

“The community in general has been wonderfully supportive. We’ve received a couple beautiful messages particularly from other faith [organizations], most notably Hillel and I want to thank them on behalf of the Muslim community for supporting us right now,” Abdul-Basser told The Sun in an email.

Abdul-Basser hoped that the vigil will bring together people from different faith backgrounds to pray for the victims and their families, as well as have an opportunity to practice prayer publicly and give the community some peace of mind.

Moving forward, MECA plans to host a forum on Friday to discuss the underlying causes of terrorist attacks like the latest one in New Zealand, such as like Islamophobia, white supremacy and gun violence.

“We feel it’s important to address how pervasive anti-muslim sentiment is, even on this campus because address info that is how we ultimately take concrete steps forward,” Abdul-Basser said.