Vigil held in remembrance of New Zealand mosques attack victims

Students held candlelight vigil as the Elliott Tower chimes for each soul lost in the tragedy.

Oakland University community members came together for a candlelight vigil in memory of the 50 people killed Friday, March 15, in terrorist attacks at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in New Zealand.

The Muslim Student Association, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Catholic Campus Ministry, Hillel student organization, Indian Student Association, Arab American Student Association and Chaldean American Student Association were all on the attendee list to remember the victims and show support for Muslim students at OU.

Speakers condemned Islamophobia and white supremacy, spoke of unity and stressed the importance of praying for the victims. Imaan Muhammad-Ali, a legislator on the Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC), organized the event.

Many of the speeches included calls to action. Muhammad-Ali said she prays one day humanity will be restored, the victims and that the shooter will be served justice, so the families are given peace.

From the Quran, Muhammad-Ali read, “Whoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he killed all mankind.”

She said the United States has not condemned terrorist crimes in the same fashion.

“When will we start changing our gun laws? It didn’t even take a second for the prime minister of New Zealand to change the gun laws, so why won’t our leaders do the same?” Muhammad-Ali asked. “Why is white supremacy being normalized by certain individuals? When will we actually get to feel safe and not worry about anyone coming and shooting up a place?”

Destinee Rule, OUSC diversity and inclusion director, emphasized the importance of seeing the human underneath religion and skin color. She said she feels for their experiences. She remembers asking her mother when she was young, “Why does everyone hate black people?” and not having an answer.

“When are we going to realize bigotry has to end?” she said. “We cannot hold any more vigils, and people should not fear for their lives in a religious place of worship…The events in New Zealand are results of white supremacy, racism and bigotry — not results of the actions of Muslims in New Zealand and around the world.”

Muhammad-Ali said inclusion is also important. She encouraged students who are unfamiliar with the Muslim faith to visit mosques, take part in Muslim traditions and see the community is not what it is depicted to be.

Senseless acts of hatred are something people are unfortunately accustomed to, according to Jessie Hurse, associate dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator. He said it’s important that people call for justice to end terrorist attacks because action is needed.

Hope was one of the main messages of the vigil. Hurse said he cannot give up hope for those who are hateful toward others, and students should not either because hope is the only way hatred can be defeated.

In times of gun violence and terrorist attacks, Hurse said he wants students to know OU stands by them.

“To our students, especially those in the Muslim community, we stand with you, we stand beside you, you are welcomed,” he said. “Our hearts go out to all of you. If there are any resources, assistance, support in any means, please don’t hesitate to seek one of us out here at Oakland. We will do anything and everything we can to be of assistance to you.”

Elliott Tower chimed 50 times as students stood silently in remembrance.