Londoners rallied around the local Muslim community Monday night in the wake of last week’s mosque attacks in New Zealand that left 50 people dead.
Organizers say the vigil, which featured speakers, a silent prayer, and a reading out of the victims’ names, drew a crowd of between 150 and 200 people to the corner of Richmond Street and Central Avenue.
“It was a calm and very somber setting,” said Abd Alfatah Twakkal, the Imam of the London Muslim Mosque.
“At the same time, I felt a sense of hope that there is going to be some good that comes out of this tragedy, moving forward. We have to be able to keep our heads high, we have to be able to recognize there are a lot of people who have the same will and same desire to make a change for the better.”
WATCH: Students perform powerful Haka dance for victims of New Zealand shooting
Fifty people were killed in mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers in an attack allegedly carried out by a white nationalist. Dozens remain in hospital. A 28-year-old Australian man has been charged with murder in the attacks.
Mohamed Hammoud, a leadership and diversity consultant and founder of the group PracticalMuslim, said he’s thankful for constant support in the London community.
“This is a lot more than a story about Muslims or what is happening to Muslims worldwide — this is about what is happening to all of us. We are a body, a human body, we are one community, and when one of us aches, we all feel the pain,” he said.
That message is one being echoed by Twakkal.
“This is a type of madness that really has to stop,” he said of the New Zealand attacks and others like it. “The conversation now is shifting much more towards what are some proactive steps that we can do to prevent these atrocities from happening, because there is a root, and these aren’t things that simply occur out of a vacuum.”
Twakkal said many in the Muslim community weren’t surprised by the attacks in Christchurch because of what he said was a rising of rhetoric against Muslims.
“We felt that it’s almost bound to happen at one point or another,” he said.
“It’s not only about Islamophobia. This time it was about Islamophobia in terms of what happened in New Zealand, but the next time it could be other groups. We have to be proactive. We have to stand together, and rightfully call out these things for what they are, which is hatred. We have to put a stop to it.”
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