Mac mourns lives lost in Christchurch terror attack

Charlotte Melrose

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Macalester students gathered outside of Weyerhaeuser Chapel on April 4 to remember the lives lost during the shootings at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre near Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15 in which 50 people were killed and 50 more were injured.

Last Thursday, members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) led, Macalester students, faculty and staff in a walk of solidarity around campus. During the walk, the group stopped several times as MSA leaders read out the names and ages as well as stories from the victims’ lives.

Fouad El Hamdouni ’19 researched and created bios for all the victims. He looked through obituaries in newspapers and statements from the companies that the victims worked at.

“We wanted the words of the people who knew them best and [to highlight] that throughout [the vigil] because it’s important,” El Hamdouni said.

After the walk, the group entered the Chapel for a service. Associate Chaplain for Muslim Life Ailya Vajid, Rev. Kelly J. Stone and Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman spoke about the events that had passed.

“If one limb is hurting, the whole body is filled with fever,” Vajid said, quoting the Prophet Muhammad.

“If one of us is hurting, all of us are hurting because we are interconnected as humans,” she continued. “Until all of us are free, none of us are free.”

The vigil ended with members of MSA reciting the call to prayer.

Throughout the event, the organizers acknowledged the hateful Islamophobia that fueled the attack. Prior to the attack, the terrorist wrote a manifesto in which he cited white supremacy and alt-right rhetoric as influences in his decision to perpetrate the attack.

“The Christchurch mosque shooting was an act of terrorism carried out by one horrifying individual, but it was also the product of every word of hate, misunderstanding, fear and ignorance that you and I and so many in this world have heard and said against Muslims,” MSA member and vigil organizer Shireen Zaineb ’20 said.

Vajid expressed similar feelings.

“I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky person, but [I felt] some sense of anger just knowing all the different ways the attack was fueled,” Vajid said. “The white supremacist rhetoric that has become such a big part of this country and was a part of [the shooter’s] motivation for the attack, as well as the anti-immigrant sentiment and even the way Muslims are portrayed in the media.”

The vigil’s organizers wanted to center Muslim students in the event but encouraged the participation of the broader Macalester community.

“We wanted it to be our moment as a Muslim community to come together but also for the larger community to come along on that journey, and I felt like that was achieved,” El Hamdouni said.

“Seeing the way that the [Muslim] community pulled together for one another gave me hope and also seeing the way that the wider community [at Mac] came together,” Vajid said. “I think like 150 to 200 people were in the Chapel, showing love, support and solidarity. It really means a lot.”