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Monday January 24th

UNC Muslim community mourns New Zealand shooting with an interfaith vigil

(From left) Senior psychology major and Arabic minor Sana Mohiuddin, junior public policy major and medical anthropology minor Nazneen Khan and first-year political science major Wali Khan listen to speakers during a vigil honoring the Christchurch shooting victims in front of the Student Union on Thursday, March 21, 2019.
Buy Photos (From left) Senior psychology major and Arabic minor Sana Mohiuddin, junior public policy major and medical anthropology minor Nazneen Khan and first-year political science major Wali Khan listen to speakers during a vigil honoring the Christchurch shooting victims in front of the Student Union on Thursday, March 21, 2019.

Vigils aren’t about the flowers and the candles, said Safa Ahmed, outreach chairperson of the UNC Muslim Students Association. Instead, Muslim vigils center around prayer.

This didn’t isolate non-Muslim attendees, though, when students filled the Pit on March 21 for last week’s interfaith vigil in honor of the New Zealand mosque shooting victims.

On March 15, a white supremacist opened fire in Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand. The terrorist killed 50 worshippers who ranged in age from three to 71.


Students join each other in a prayer following a vigil hosted by the Muslim Student Association outside of the Student Union on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The event honored the victims of the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, during which a shooter claimed the lives of 51 people during Friday Prayer.


As soon as the news came out, Ahmed said the board knew they had to do something.

The vigil fulfilled the overall mission of the group, which aims to bring together Muslims on campus and in Chapel Hill and collaborate with other UNC organizations, according to their website.  

“It was really about giving Muslims the chance to air their pain, when it’s so often silenced,” Ahmed said.


Students gather in front of the Student Union to listen to speakers during a vigil hosted by the Muslim Student Association on Thursday, March 21, 2019. MSA held the event to honor the victims of the Christchurch attacks in New Zealand, during which a shooter claimed 51 lives during Friday Prayer between Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.


Board members read each victim’s name at the beginning of the vigil, following a Quran recitation. Students from the association shared messages with the crowd, including original poetry and writing.

The vigil also included speakers from UNC Hillel, Newman Catholic Student Center Parish and UNC Wesley Campus Ministry as well as Nida Allam, third vice chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. 

First-year Lara Mohammad appreciated the interfaith component. Mohammad said she is a proud and practicing Muslim, but that the terrorist attack made her fear people seeing her as a threat because she wears a hijab. She said the support across faiths at the vigil meant a lot to her.

“No matter if you pray on Fridays, if you pray on Sundays, if you pray on Saturdays, if you fast, if you don’t, any form of religion, it means a lot,” Mohammad said.


Mariam Konsouh, a junior environmental sciences major and geography minor, lays out a prayer rug in honor of the victims of the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting before a vigil held in front of the Student Union on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Some rugs displayed Islamic icons, including images of minarets, mosques and Mecca.


As an Arab-American, sophomore Sophia Rekeibe said that she thinks it is important for the Arab community to show a lot of solidarity toward Muslims, even though they don’t have the same religion.

“No Christian and no Jew wishes ill on Muslims, and the same goes around,” Rekeibe said. “For instance, there may be politics that involves that we don’t agree with each other, but that’s not what we wish for each other. No one wishes that this happened.”

Rekeibe said she has friends who are in New Zealand right now, so when she heard about the shooting within five minutes of it happening, she had to message them to find out if they were safe.

Though the attack took place across the globe, the UNC community also remembered a local Islamophobic attack.

In 2015, a UNC Adams School of Dentistry student, his wife and her sister were shot in the head by a neighbor over a parking dispute. Since then, Our Three Winners Foundation was created to remember the victims and challenge implicit bias. The dental school also honors Our Three Winners each year with a day dedicated to service in the Triangle.


Muslim students and community members touch their heads to the ground during a prayer as sophomore computer science major and mathematics minor Omar Shaban (left) repeats "Allahu Akbar," translated "God is the Greatest," after a vigil in front of the Student Union on Thursday, March 21, 2019.


Our Three Winners were referenced throughout the program. Provost Bob Blouin mentioned the tragedy in UNC’s recent history and said that it is vitally important to gather and share feelings.

“Silence does not heal. It makes us believe that nobody is listening, and leads people to think that no one else is hurting, that no one else cares,” he said. “We certainly all feel the hurt. We are listening, and I want to assure you that Chancellor Guskiewicz and I are listening, and we and our University leadership is committed to finding opportunities to redouble our combined efforts to act against hatred.”

During her message to the crowd, Muslim Students Association board member Anum Imran ended with a call to action.

“The cycle of violence against our community will not end with the next vigil or the next protest," she said. "It ends with policy and rhetoric and people with privilege stepping aside whenever issues surrounding our community are being discussed, and allowing for Muslim voices to take ownership of our own narrative."


(From left) Senior psychology major and Arabic minor Sana Mohiuddin, junior dental hygiene major Nasiha Malik and freshman political science major Wali Khan hold their hands in prayer during a vigil outside the Student Union on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The Muslim Student Association held the vigil in honor of the 51 victims of the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand.


@elizltmoore

university@dailytarheel.com

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