OGDEN – Northern Utah Muslims gathered on the steps of the Ogden Municipal Building Wednesday evening for a community vigil to honor the victims of the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
About 75 people were in attendance. While many were Muslim, about a third of those present were not.
Mary Khalaf, a Muslim convert living in Ogden who organized the vigil, said that on the day the attack happened, she went on social media and clicked on the livestream video of the attacks without realizing what it was. She said she watched in horror.
“The people who came (to the mosques) that day were coming because Islam is a religion that believes in improving the world around them,” Khalaf said. “These people had come together that day to pray and to gather in the hope of a better world, not realizing that very soon they would leave this world and go to an eternal one.
“So I ask that you take what their hope was for a better world and go out into the communities and take that light up so their sacrifice is not in vain. Be kind to those who need it and stick up for those in pain.”
Mohammed Al-Tigar, president and chair of the congregation at the Islamic Center of Kuwait in Utah, located in South Ogden, said he was thankful for support his congregation has received in response to the tragedy.
“Thank you all for your support. Thank you all for your kind words. Thank you all for your genuine thoughts. That absolutely touched us in every single way,” Al-Tigar said. “Thanks to everyone that reached out to us via phone, email or text. We cannot thank you enough because you made us feel welcome. You made us feel welcome, and you were there for us.”
He called on societies to put an end to anti-Muslim rhetoric and for Muslims to remain peaceful in their response to the massacre.
“Since one wrong cannot and should not be fixed by another, let us not return hate for hate, evil for evil, or violence for violence,” he said. “We have to put and end to all of the rhetoric remarks and hate speeches that have divided us and created animosity amongst us. We can do this by returning love in the face of hate, good in the face of evil and charity in the face of violence.
“Therefore, I call upon President Trump and others like him to speak out forcefully against the growing anti-Muslim hate which seems to be the main motivator behind these terrifying and cowardly murders.”
Al-Tigar also thanked the people of New Zealand and New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, for their support.
“Finally, I would like to thank the New Zealand Prime Minister, and the people of New Zealand in general,” he continued, choking up, “for their wonderful and sincere stand by the Muslim community.
“The New Zealand prime minister surely showed the world how a true leader would act at a time of crisis. She has won the hearts of not only the Muslims of New Zealand but all of the Muslims all over the world. I truly wish Mr. Trump will learn a thing or two from her.”
Two members of the Ogden Diversity Commission — Priscilla Martinez and Adrienne Andrews — spoke during the open time for anyone to participate. Two other members of the commission, Jeremy Shinoda and Ami Noshiravan — were in attendance. Viviana Felix, Ogden City’s Diversity Affairs Officer, was also present.
The commission meets the second Wednesday of every month from 1–3 p.m. at the Ogden Municipal Building.