LOCAL Government Minister Kazim Hosein, a devout Muslim, said he wept during Juma prayers yesterday as he and the congregation said prayers for the souls of the 49 people killed in a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“I had just left the Parliament after the Joint Select Committee (meeting) and I was heading to Penal when the time came for Juma, so I stopped off at a mosque in Central Trinidad. Let me tell you, I was in tears while saying prayers for those who died,” Minister Hosein said.
He said the mood at the mosque was sombre and fellow Muslims kept victims of the shootings in their prayers. He added that Maulana Abdul Salaam, who led the service, told those present to live each day as if it were their last, as they do not know what will happen.
“You could see the pain on people’s faces while they prayed,” Hosein said. “The mood was very sobering. Everyone in the mosque was feeling it. Even now, as I am talking to you, there are tears in my eyes. This has hurt me deeply,” Hosein said as he confirmed watching the video of the shooting, recorded by Australian gunman Brenton Tarrant.
Hosein said the pain that was seen in the mosque was reflected in the hearts of Muslims all over the world. “The Muslim community is a worldwide family. So this happened in New Zealand, but we are feeling it in TT. People will be feeling it in America, South Africa and Ghana. Muslims are in pain throughout the world,” Hosein said.
Immediately after news of the attack broke, several official bodies, nationally, regionally and internationally, condemned the terrorist attack and expressed condolences to the families of the victims. The Office of the Prime Minister, in a release, echoed the sentiment.
“In this period of grief the people of TT, we who live by the doctrine that every creed and race have an equal place in our nation, unreservedly condemn all words and deeds from whatsoever source, that would have the effect of initiating, encouraging or sustaining hatred in any and all its manifestations.We call for the widest possible condemnation of this debasing of humanity by those who fail to accept the oneness of the human race,” the release said.
Hosein also knocked anti-Muslim rhetoric which called the faith violent, saying Islam is about peace. “When Muslims say, A Salaam u Alaikum, they are saying, ‘Peace be unto you’,” Hosein said.
Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said on her Twitter account: “I join all citizens of T&T in condemning the heinous terrorist attack in New Zealand today. T&T stands in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and the Muslim community as we mourn this tragic loss.”
US Ambassador to TT Joseph Mondello said: “It’s a horrible thing to live in a time when people cannot go to a mosque, church or temple and express their feelings religiously without fear of being murdered, which is exactly what happened.”
Mondello made his statement at an inter-religious meeting where he met with leaders of several faiths – Muslim, Hindu, Roman Catholic, Bahá’í, Seventh Day Adventist and Spiritual Baptist – at the Masjid Al Tawbah in Tobago.
Head of the Islamic Front, Umar Abdullah yesterday along with several other Muslim groups, called for protection against possible terror threats against them while at mosque.
In a release, Abdullah called for Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith to station at least two police officers at masjids across the country during Juma. “The Islamic Front is calling on Commissioner Griffith to consider the call of all Muslims to be safe in their place of worship and not to rule out the possibility of ‘copycats’ in carrying out similar attacks here in TT, especially against the backdrop of an already out of control ‘war’ between the so-called ‘Rasta City’ and ‘Muslim City’ gangs,” Abdullah said.
“The Islamic Front is reminding Muslims to remain vigilant and alert at all times. Islamophobia is real and hate-filled individuals such as the one we saw in this attack do exist. Allah mentions in the Qur’an; 3:118 ‘...Enmity has been revealed from their speech, and what they hide in their breasts is greater...” Abdullah added.