AP NEWS

Standing in solidarity

March 23, 2019

STAMFORD — Packed in a Washington Boulevard mosque, more than 300 gathered Friday to hear a call to prayer and together reflect on last Friday’s terror.

The prayer hall wasn’t busy last Friday, said Imam Nour Aldean. Only half the number of normal worshipers attended, with many afraid to go, he said. It was just hours after the slaughter of 50 Muslims during prayer at mosques half a world away.

“The blood of these people wasn’t lost in vain,” Aldean said. “Their blood actually waters the seeds of hope.”

That hope, he said, was that all can learn to live together in peace. Before him Friday afternoon was a fine example.

In the crowd sat rabbis and priests, the gray-bearded and young, with little in common beyond a lack of shoes. And that was just the men. Hundreds of women from many backgrounds prayed just up the stairs.

The Islamic Cultural Center of NY-Stamford in downtown became a rallying place Friday for residents hoping to show support for the city’s Muslim residents after the attacks in New Zealand that killed 50. Prayers facing Mecca came first as congregants intermingled with an outpouring of support that made the large prayer hall feel small.

Residents of many faiths shuffled on the green-patterned carpet to form parallel lines of prayer before a rally outside with the mayor.

“It was good to see the support,” said Sufian Hakeem, who has attended Friday prayers there for the last eight years.

The rally, too, proved well attended with hundreds huddled in the March chill to hear pastors, rabbis and politicians denounce the hate that prompted the New Zealand killings and called for residents to live in peace.

“You are welcome in this city,” said Mayor David Martin. “We will do everything in our power to not only protect you, but to show we are all part of one community.”

The killings and the divisions that likely fueled them have become sadly common, said Rabbi Jay TelRav of North Stamford’s Temple Sinai.

“I hate that it was so recently that so many of you came to pray with us after the attack in Pittsburg,” TelRav said. “But we saw you.”

Aldean and other mosque officials thanked the group — which included several city Representatives — for showing in force, and welcomed residents to ask questions and attend services.

A poor understanding of the religion and tying all Muslims to extremists and terrorists only fuels Islamophobia, Aldean said.

“Terrorists are terrorists because they are bad people, not because they are Muslim, not because they are Jewish — because they are bad people,” he said. “God did not command us to kill each other ... God commanded us to love each other.”

barry.lytton@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2263; @bglytton