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Sacramento Muslim Community Reacts To New Zealand Mosque Shootings

AP Photo/Mark Baker

People wait outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque, a witness said.

AP Photo/Mark Baker

The Sacramento Muslim community is still processing the attacks that left at least 49 Muslim worshippers dead in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday.

The attacks were carried out at two mosques in what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “can now only be described as a terrorist attack.”

The Associated Press reported that the gunman behind at least one of the shootings posted a 74-page manifesto on social media identifying himself as a white nationalist who wanted to avenge attacks in Europe by Muslims.

The mass shootings took place during Friday prayer, which Yannina Casillas with the California chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said is “our Sunday mass” for Muslims.

“It’s the largest time of day that Muslims gather,” Casillas said. “This is the type of attack driven by hate and religious discrimination as well as ethnic [discrimination].”

Casillas spoke with CapRadio’s Ben Adler Friday morning about her reaction to the attack and how others can support Sacramento’s Muslim community.

On how she’s feeling after the attack

We've only had a few hours of sleep because we've been mobilizing, kind of making sure our community has an update from us directly about safety and awareness. But to be honest, I'm in shock. I've been crying on and off for the past few hours and I don't think it's really set in and hit me. I think at Friday prayers today, it'll really become real and I can't even explain the shock. I'm still processing it. I think we all are.

On CAIR’s safety resources for houses of worship

Our organization nationwide created a safety protocol for houses of worship to protect against hate crimes and acts of violence. So we've been sharing that with mosque leadership as well as just letting folks know of protocol for during Friday prayers for letting folks in and making sure that you have community members at the door greeting people. But also connecting with local law enforcement to see if there can be extra patrols just to ensure that folks feel safe coming to prayer.

On what the others can do to support the Muslim community following the attack

If our neighbors have any questions on how to support the local Muslim community, they can reach out to CAIR or they can just demonstrate acts of solidarity with their Muslim neighbors and co-workers and just check in and see how they're doing. I think what folks should do [if they want to come to Friday prayer in solidarity] is reach out and call the mosque because when you see somebody you don't recognize coming in, considering what's happened, I think the best step would be to just reach out and see if it's OK to come to prayer. Other folks in other regions have actually formed human circles around houses of worship as a kind of symbolic gesture that they stand with them. So I just recommend reaching out to your local mosque, or you can reach out to our organization.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

Emily Zentner

Interactive Producer

Emily Zentner is an Interactive Producer at Capital Public Radio. Prior to joining CapRadio in May 2018, she worked as a video producer at The Sacramento Bee. She studied journalism at Arizona State University.  Read Full Bio 

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