“My innocence was gone when I saw a man live-streaming the slaughter of 50 worshipers in the Al Noor mosque in New Zealand,” said Mary Khalaf, a Muslim-American who ran for Ogden City Council in 2017.
The Ogden community stood in solidarity with Christchurch, New Zealand, and the entire Muslim community to mourn and honor the 50 people killed and 50 wounded in two mosque shootings on March 15.
The diverse crowd came together at the Ogden Municipal Building on March 27 and shared anecdotes, wrote words of support, prayed and recited the names of victims.
Ogden’s community vigil allowed a safe space for anyone to speak about their thoughts and feelings. The Ogden City Diversity Commission attended to assist in educating Muslims and non-Muslims about effective ways to connect and bridge differences
Adrienne Andrews, WSU chief diversity officer, told fellow attendees that together they will continue to show up with love when met with hate.
“I’m emotional because you’re standing here together with our community, all members of our community,” Andrews told the crowd. “We are refusing hate and instead choosing love. People who hate do not want us to choose love.”
Imam Mohammed Al-Tigar, president and chair of the Islamic Center of Kuwait in South Ogden, thanked the Ogden community for standing with the Muslim community and making them feel welcomed.
Holding back tears, he thanked New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the people of New Zealand for their “wonderful and sincere stance by the Muslim community.” Al-Tigar then contrasted Ardern’s leadership after the attack with Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
“The New Zealand Prime Minister truly showed the world how a true leader (should) act in a time of crisis. She has won the hearts of not only the Muslims in New Zealand but all the Muslims all over the world,” Al-Tigar said. “I truly wish Mr. Trump will learn a thing or two from her.”
Before beginning a prayer, Al-Tigar asked the crowd if he could share some things about Islam.
According to Al-Tigar, Islam is the religion of prophets like Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus. Islam states there is only one true God who deserves to be worshiped. This God is the “creator, sustainer, provider, the one who gives life and the one who takes it.” He denounced that Islam teaches hate or to attack the innocent.
“Perhaps you may have seen some Muslims that have done and committed some horrible crimes. They claim to be Muslim, but that is not the teaching of Islam,” Al-Tigar said. “There is no way that our prophet will go and tell us to kill the innocent.”
Inviting all to visit the Utah Islamic Center of Kuwait, Al-Tigar assured the doors are always open to anyone. He said his prophet did not teach them to shove anyone away but rather to love one another.
“When you see one of us walking, it’s okay to take a look. We look different. That’s okay,” Al-Tigar said. “We are part of your community. I’ve been here since ‘93. I know no other place than Ogden. I graduated from Weber. I work down in Salt Lake. I pay my taxes. I am you. I look a little bit better, but I am you.”
Al-Tigar led Ṣalāt al-Janāzah, the Islamic funeral prayer, in honor of the New Zealand victims. Attendees who wished to participate stood in a line in the direction of Mecca.
“These people came together that day to pray in hope of a better world,” Khalaf said. “So I ask that we take what their hope was,for a better world, and go out to our communities and take that light up so that their sacrifices are not in vain.”