CSUF vigil for New Zealand heals a community after shooting

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This is a photo of a woman who spoke at the vigil.
(Sol Villalba / Daily Titan)

Rain dripped from the skies as though the heavens themselves were crying. The Quran echoed throughout the Becker Theater, breaking up the pitter-patter of the drizzle on Wednesday, right before a vigil was held for the victims of the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand last week.

Around 50 people were killed in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which is the country’s deadliest terrorist attack, according to CNN and the BBC.

New Zealand will ban the types of semi-automatic assault rifles used in the attack, according to Reuters.

Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association, Lebanese Social Club, Kuwait Student Club and the Iranian Student Association collaborated to host the event.

Joshua Fatahi, vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine, said it is important to have these events to prevent similar acts from occurring in the future.

“One reason why we hosted today’s event is just to try and help the community heal from tragic events like this,” Fatahi said. “Something I noticed when we were organizing this that I didn’t really realize was how much support we were going to get from the community.”

Hijabs hid the somber faces of some of the students who attended the vigil, but Muslims were not the only ones who attended the event.

Support from the community on campus was prevalent as fellow students stood in solidarity with members from Movimiento Estudiantil [email protected] de Aztlán de CSUF, Students for Quality Education and other student organizations.

“There are so many different communities that are affected by this hateful sentiment that has grown in the U.S. and worldwide,” Fatahi said. “It’s this real fear from not just the Muslim community but from all communities. From the Latinx community, from the Jewish community, from people of color, the black students on campus.”

A rainbow of prayer carpets were laid out on the grass, each representing a life lost during the shootings.

Imaan Parekh, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said despite the tragedy, there is a lesson to be learned from the shooting.

“With hate we should respond with empathy and more than just that our prophet told us to smile. He told us to do good deeds and that is really what our religion is about,” Parekh said.

Speakers took the stage to share thoughts, feelings and fears, echoing the sentiment that even though the attack occurred in a foreign country, its effects have rippled throughout the global community.

“Innocent people are getting killed for too long in the name of faith, race and ethnic background. The solution is to stop this bouncing ball of hate. No more. Not one more life,” said Rafae Husain, a member of the board of directors for the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco.

Fauzia Rizvi, an attendee at the vigil, said those who attended the event stand in solidarity with refuters of Islamophobia, violence and extremism.

Rizvi said while mass shootings are common during this era, the attack stands out for its bigotry and timing.

“As Muslims peacefully attended Friday prayers in the mosque, it’s hard to imagine a place for such a tragedy to occur. Mosques, churches are our safe places and we pray to God, we pray together today to let it be like that,” Rizvi said.

Rizvi said the attacks stood out because the perpetrators live-streamed the shootings on Facebook.

“It’s unfair for us to say that we’re going to pray for peace and we can’t even pray in peace. It’s really scary. That easily could have been me,” said Yasmine Abo-Shadi, a speaker at the vigil and former vice president of the Muslim Student Association.

Abo-Shadi, who wears a hijab, delved into what it is like to be visibly Muslim in today’s society and dispelled the myths regarding wearing the veil.

Women who wear the hijab are tired of the stares from those who pass them scared, Abo-Shadi said.

“I don’t think people really understand how terrifying it is to be a visible Muslim at times like these, so I pray for the safety of all Muslims,” Abo-Shadi said.

For 51 seconds, students, staff and officers from the University Police department bowed their heads to honor those who lost lives in the attack with a moment of silence — a silence that echoed loudly on an area on campus usually polluted by the noise of students.

The peaceful scene by the Titan Student Union created a pensive mood, allowing students to mourn and reflect on the gravity of hate crimes and the solemnity of terrorist attacks.
Saba Ansari, vice president for Associated Students, expressed the power of love in healing and the importance of fighting back against bigotry.

“I think we all need to work together to figure out how to fight white supremacy and Islamophobia and bigotry, and assure students on our campus that there’s no room for that here,” Ansari said. “It’s important to have love in your hearts and it’s important to get along with people that don’t necessarily believe the same things as you.”

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