San Diego

San Diego Muslims Embrace at Friday Prayer Day After NZ Attack

Muslims unified in worship during Friday prayer at the Islamic Center of San Diego (ICSD) just hours after a terrorist unleashed a barrage of bullets that killed at least 50 and injured dozens more in two attacks at mosques in Christchurch New Zealand.

At the mosque in Clairemont, Muslims told NBC 7 they were heartbroken for their brothers and sisters in faith and said everyone should be safe to pray no matter where they are or who their God is.

"I think it definitely hit home for a lot of folks, much like a school shooting for people who have children at a public school. it really hits home," worshiper Sulaiman Morgan said.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit increased patrols around mosques, temples and churches, and it was evident Friday at the ICSD.

"Hate and violence have no place in our society," the chief wrote in a message to the community. "No person should ever be in fear of attending their sacred place of worship." 

Though the increased law enforcement presence was part of a deliberate show of force to discourage attacks locally, the congregation said fear was not, and could not be in their hearts.

"If you don't come, and you are scared, that means that this criminal has achieved their goal. They're going to terrorize and scare you not to come," said Imam Abdel Jalil Mezgouri with the Islamic Center. 

The Imam's parting demand of the worshipers was to not sit still, and to instead get to know their neighbors.

"No fear... and we just keep going and worship the God, that's the only thing we can do," worshiper Muhammad Abunedi said. He urged them to get involved in a neighborhood or community organization, and said the only way to dispell the stereotypes that are brought on by fear is to get to know people who are different.

Another told NBC 7 that skipping Friday prayer on a day like this would have been an act of weakness.

"Showing up and coming together today was an act of strength and resilience," Mejgan Afshan with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said.

After Friday's Jumah service, the congregation spilled out into the courtyard where the ICSD Imam and CAIR led an interfaith news conference with pastors and rabbis from all over the county.

Leaders asked the entire San Diego community to look past differences of race and religion.

Outside of the ICSD grounds, non-Muslims stood in solidarity with the congregation. Some held homemade signs with messages of support.

David Patterson with Veterans for Peace told NBC 7 his presence outside the gates was an extension of his military service, and that he didn't fight to protect just Christians or any other select group of people.

“The message is, kind of speaking for all veterans, to stand up for our fellow citizens who are here equally protected by the constitution as we are. Stand up and tell the hate mongers that we do not agree with what they’re doing," he said.

The support from non-Muslims continued into the evening. Maureen Richards stopped by the ICSD Friday night to drop off herbs from her garden. She hopes the gift is seen as a sign of hope.

Security guards could be seen walking the grounds all day and multiple security cameras captured everything from above. 

SDPD asked anyone with knowledge of potential threats to report them to law enforcement so they may be investigated. 

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