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New Zealand mosque attacks highlight everyday fear for Cincinnati Muslims

'It's a fear that we're all familiar with'
Posted: 4:40 PM, Mar 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-16 01:18:13-04

CINCINNATI — The Friday shooting spree that killed 49 people at a pair of New Zealand mosques was a performance to the man who planned it.

He uploaded a rambling, racist manifesto to a website known for hosting child pornography, livestreamed part of the attack on Facebook and name-dropped a popular YouTuber as he did so — all, technology reporter Taylor Lorenz suggested, as part of a scheme to gain as much online attention as possible.

The New York Times went a step further, writing he “now appears to have become the first accused mass murderer to conceive of the killing itself as a meme.”

But it was painfully real to the people who gathered Friday at Clifton Mosque and the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, where worshippers joined hands, prayed and cried in the face of an event some said brought their worst fears to life.

“I think most Muslim communities are thinking, ‘It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when,’” Clifton Mosque Imam Ismaeel Chartier said that night.

His mosque had a when once: In 2005, a still-unidentified pipe bomber left two explosives outside its front doors at night. Chartier said he and others spend some days bracing themselves for a repeat or worse.

West Chester police were on hand during a prayer service at the Islamic Center earlier in the day. Although the mosque invited all members of the Greater Cincinnati community to attend its mourning vigil Saturday afternoon, it also plans to increase its security in the wake of the New Zealand attack.

In a written statement, ICGC executive director Tammam Alwan said anti-Muslim violence “is a direct result of politicians exploiting social division and sowing fear." The local Muslim community is leaning on each other now more than ever, he added.

"We know that we are Americans, that we are Muslims and here to stay, that we are proud of our faith," he said.

ICGC Imam Hassam Musa said the tragedy highlights the importance of speaking out against hate speech of all kinds.

“Whenever tragedy happens to any community and it’s based on bigotry and hatred, I think it’s the obligation of all moral people to be upset,” he said.

Leaders with the Cincinnati chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations also spoke out against hate speech. Karen Dabdoub said people of all faiths are affected when a house of worship is violated and attacked, whether in Friday's mosque attacks or the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last October.

CAIR is recommending local mosques increase security as a precaution, saying everyone must be on alert.

"It's a fear that we're all familiar with, and it's a fear that's never far from our minds," Dabdoub said.

Any person of any faith is welcome to attend the ICGC's 4 p.m. vigil Saturday, where a ceremony will "honor the victims with prayer and solidarity." Participants were requested to RSVP online.