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Friday, March 24, 2023 — Houston, TX

Muslim Student Association hosts vigil for victims of New Zealand shooting


By Rynd Morgan     3/26/19 10:30pm

Rice community members gathered at Willy’s Statue last Wednesday night to mourn the 50 lives lost and 50 more injured in the Christchurch shooting. 

Saad Yousaf, the Muslim Student Association President r, spoke first, condemning the white supremacist ideology that fueled the Christchurch attack and similar attacks.

“There is no question that such hateful sentiments are unfortunately alive today,” Yousaf, a McMurtry College senior, said. “Just earlier this year, we remembered the lives lost at the Tree of Life synagogue shooting.” 

Yousaf said that the vigil was meant to demonstrate the strength of the community in addition to mourning the victims.

“We do not cower in fear and let white supremacy win and let the world think this is a loss for us,” Yousaf said. “Instead we smile with open arms and let them know that they have not broken us. Rather they have made us stronger in our faith, the faith that brings beauty in this world. And it is our responsibility to convey that beauty to them.”

Yousaf and fellow speaker Nailah Mulla called attention to the worldwide persecution of Muslims in their speeches.

“Many Muslims around the world know and pray for the Uighurs in China, the Rohingya in Myanmar and many other Muslim groups who fear for their lives, yet nobody knows about them through Western media,” Yousaf said.

Mulla, a Hanszen College junior, said global persecution of Muslims has affected her personally.

“About 70 years ago, all of my grandparents were displaced as refugees due to Muslim genocide,” Mullah said. “The massacres on Muslims in Burma have not ended.”

Mullah then led the attendees in a moment of silence to honor the victims of the shooting. Several attendees held electric candles handed out by vigil organizers.

Hanszen College freshman Syed Shams said he hoped  those at the vigil would not become numb to the pain of repeated hate crimes. 

“When I first heard this news, I didn’t blink,” Shams said. “I’m tired of vigils. I am tired of coming out and standing and sending thoughts and prayers to people who buried their family members in pain I cannot feel so many miles away.”

Speakers also touched upon the personal impact of the shooting. Will Rice senior Aziza Salako said she found out about the attack through messages she received on her phone over spring break.

“Throughout my childhood […] the masjid was literally my second home,” Salako said. “When I heard about the New Zealand shooting, I was so numb because it literally could have been me, it could have been my sister, my brother, any member of my family. When I heard of the New Zealand shooting, I wanted to do nothing but run back home to my masjid.”

Sid Richardson College senior Ceyda Kural said she felt the personal impact of the shooting and said that it was a manifestation of persecution that Muslims face.

“I know [the victims] because they are me, and because they are you, and because they are normal, everyday people, people who the media feels the need to preface with words like ‘innocent’ and ‘peaceful’ just because we have been told for so long that Muslims are neither of those things and everything but,” Kural said.

Craig Considine, lecturer in the sociology department and an IRC sponsor, spoke next, listing the names of each of the victims, their ages and a short biography of each, beginning with the youngest and oldest victims. The circle of attendees stood silent as he paid tribute to each of the 50 victims, then quietly left his place at the microphone. 

As the penultimate speaker in the vigil, Furqan Ahmad recited verses from the Quran in Arabic and invited people to seek help through patience and prayer.

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah they are dead,” Ahmad said in his Quranic recitation. “Rather they are alive but you do not perceive it … give good tidings to the patient who, when disaster strikes them, they say, ‘indeed we belong to God.’”

The final speaker at the vigil, former Student Association president Ariana Engles, said that religious tolerance is one of the most important things that students can learn during their time at Rice and expressed solidarity with those affected by the shooting.

“There is such a great community and circle of support for all of those who are going through the process of grieving,” Engles said. “And I hope you understand and realize that this level of community and common unity exists beyond these moments of tragedy.”

Salako said that, in the wake of the shooting, she felt the support of the Rice community. 

“Looking at this crowd, I feel the heartbeat of hope, love and patience,” Salako said. “And I’m so grateful that I have love and that I have the Rice community so that we can continue to support each other.”

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