The shootings at two New Zealand mosques that killed almost 50 people and wounded more than 40 did not stop Columbia-area Muslims and their supporters from attending Friday prayer.
The men’s prayer room at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri was full Friday shortly after noon. A handful of women also attended.
Former state representative and current mayoral candidate Chris Kelly made an appearance and gave his condolences to the crowd after the mass shooting. One of his friends asked him to speak, he said.
“I was so moved by the words of the imam, the teacher, when he said I know it’s hard but this is not the act of a Christian or of Christianity. This is the act of a criminal,” Kelly said.
He said it is important for people to grieve across religious lines, especially when relations are frayed.
Shakir Hamoodi, an imam at the center, said people from the community have expressed their solidarity with local Muslims.
“We have been receiving phone calls, and sympathy, and flowers,” he said.
He said the Columbia area is very supportive of the Muslim community.
“But as a Muslim community at-large, we feel the pain that other Muslims, you know, have gone through,” Hamoodi said.
Stephanie Bland and Eric Dunn laid flowers on the mosque’s front steps. They said even small sentiments can help others. They wanted to show the actions of the shooter in New Zealand are not representative of Columbia as a community.
“I’m sure that the community here is absolutely afraid. I mean it happens one place, I’m sure everyone’s on high alert,” Dunn said. “I mean anywhere they are in the world, you attack a group of individuals, everyone’s going to feel a little bit afraid that fits into that group.”
Columbia police drove around the mosque Friday, and one officer stayed nearby during prayer. Columbia police Chief Geoff Jones in an emailed statement said “We recognize and value all members of the community. As we are aware of the unfortunate attack that we have seen in New Zealand, we are in constant communication with the Mosque in Columbia so we can provide as much safety and security as possible.”
Hamoodi spoke about the shooting many times during the service.
“Anyone who justifies hate and violence from a book of faith, he’s absolutely wrong and I’m willing to sit with him and explain to him. Let it be a Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jews, or no matter what his faith is, faiths call for compassion. For love, for co-existence among human beings,” he said. “No religion calls for violence.”
He said everyone, including the New Zealand shooters, need to remember other humans are exactly that, human.
“This gentleman or a lady who was on the receiving edge of your bullet, could have been your daughter, could have been your son, could have been your father. How would you react and how would you look at such ideology,” Hamoodi said.
He said even when tragic events, the Muslim community in Columbia continues to worship.
“We are full every week.”