Security Matter: City Police Will Guard W-B Mosque
WILKES-BARRE — When Dr. Ibrahim Almeky’s wife showed him video of a gunman slaughtering people in a New Zealand mosque last week, he thought it was a tasteless video game at first.
When the well-known Muslim imam found out the mass murder of innocents was real, he immediately worried such a massacre could happen here.
“I was shocked. You walk into a place of worship. You don’t know them. They don’t know you. They are asking for God’s mercy and this is what you do to them?” Almeky said Thursday.
Following the shooting, his mosque, Masjid Al-Noor on Scott Street in Wilkes-Barre, quickly entered into a contract to have Wilkes-Barre police guard the house of worship on certain days and times.
Temple Israel, a Jewish synagogue on River Street in Wilkes-Barre, had to do the same a few months ago following a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Hundreds of residents of the Wyoming Valley, from all races and faiths, gathered in solidarity at the Jewish Community Center in Wilkes-Barre following the Pittsburgh shooting for a community vigil.
Leaders of the area’s faith community are now planning a similar prayer event “Standing Against Terror: United With Our Muslim Neighbors” this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre.
“We are gathering to show signs of unity. As different faiths, we need to stand together against all terror attacks,” Almeky said. “We are one community. We are one family.”
Almeky, of Shavertown, is a physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Twp. and also runs an urgent care medical facility in Kingston. He’s president of the Islamic Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which runs the Wilkes-Barre mosque and two in Scranton.
Almeky will lead Sunday’s peace gathering with Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel and Rev. Bob Zanicky of First Presbyterian Church on South Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Little did the New Zealand terrorist know, he united people of all faiths instead of dividing them after killing 50 innocent people, Kaplan said.
“Even though New Zealand is further away than Pittsburgh, it’s closer than you think,” Kaplan said.
Zanicky said he would love to see a big turnout at the event.
“We hope many people from the ‘Valley with a Heart’ will be there,” Zanicky said.
Kaplan said he “can’t believe” he had to talk with Almeky about how to contract Wilkes-Barre police for private security details to protect his mosque.
Almeky noted the mosque agreed to pay officers hourly in minimum three-hour periods on certain days.
“In my opinion, it’s well worth it,” Almeky said. “It will encourage people to come. They are coming to pray. They don’t have guns to protect themselves.”
Contact the writer:
PRAYER GATHERING: Several local religious leaders have organized a prayer gathering at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre in response to last week’s mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques. The event is titled “Standing Against Terror: United With Our Muslim Neighbors.”