Wearing hijabs and yarmulkes, stocking caps and taqiyahs, puffy coats, law-enforcement uniforms, and here and there a spot of St. Patrick’s Day green, hundreds of people gathered at a Bloomington mosque Saturday in the wake of Friday’s massacre of 50 worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand.
If their apparel and backgrounds differed, the sentiments expressed by those who filled the gym at Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center — even the words they used — were remarkably similar.
Support. Solidarity. Unity.
“This is not the first time this community has come together to support us,” said Fadumo Hassan of Eden Prairie, referring to the response to a 2017 bombing at the center.
And the support has gone the other way too, said Marlene Bukstein and Dorit Miles, Jewish members of the Minneapolis chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a national organization for Jewish and Muslim women.
When 11 people died in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year, Muslim women reached out, Miles said. “I was really touched,” she said. “I feel very moved to come here today to support them.”
Attendees spoke of their determination to fight hate-laced ideologies.
“I’m here to show support to our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community and to stand up for love in the face of white supremacy,” said Ben Connelly of Minneapolis, a Zen Buddhist priest.
Alfred Babington-Johnson, president and CEO of the Stairstep Foundation, which sponsors an ecumenical organization for black churches, said he came “to show unity, to show the importance of trying to live in a love context instead of allowing the toxic speech of vile behaviors that are bubbling up unchecked.”
“We know what it means to be targeted and marginalized,” said DeWayne Davis, pastor of All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church, which welcomes LGBT members. “Nobody should have to face the threat of violence because of who they are.”
“I feel it’s my family that has been injured and killed,” said Joanne Sylvander of St. Paul, a Christian who belongs to the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration. “We belong together. It’s just by happenstance that I happen to be white and in the Midwest.”
“Your physical body in this space shows that you care, and that’s a big deal,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison, one of the speakers at the event. In 2006, he was the first Muslim elected to Congress.
“When I walked in this room today I got a big hug from a friend” — Rabbi Michael Adam Latz of the Shir Tikvah Synagogue in Minneapolis — Ellison said. “I knew exactly what he meant, and he knew what I meant.”
Law enforcement officers and department leaders were on hand not only to protect public safety but also to offer their personal support.
“I live in Bloomington,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson. “I just want to make sure the Muslim community and every community knows we’re here, so they can pray and practice their religion in peace.”
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said he has stationed officers at mosques throughout his city during activities and prayer times, instructing officers not only to keep watch but also to interact with worshipers so they “not only are safe, but they feel safe,” he said.
“My heart breaks when I see senseless painful violence that is happening, not just here but around the world,” Axtell said.