Hundreds of Islamic faithful filled the McLean County Islamic Center Friday, following a deadly terror attack in New Zealand that took at least 49 lives.
“We all have to feel for one another, and we have to stand as a community,” said Imam Saad Palwala. “This transcends beyond race or religion or color…this is just a human thing.”
At least three people have been arrested, one being charged with murder.
“Even coming here today, it was something I was scared of,” said Noor Alsaquri. “But you know, just to come (to the Center) is something that we must all do show that we are not scared.”
Behind them, dozens of people from other faiths showing support, including Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe.
“As a member of the Jewish faith, there was a time last year where we lost our brothers and sisters as a result of the Pittsburgh shooting. I felt like I had to be able to pay it forward and let our Muslim brothers and sisters know that we are with them.”
That feeling of inclusion chief among the Imam’s sermon, preaching a theme of unity among all people and faiths.
“No religion encourages violence,” he said to the congregation. “And if an individual does an act of violence, he does not have a religion.”
As Friday prayers wrapped up, the assembled gathered to thank guests and used their support as a light in what New Zealand’s Prime Minister dubbed the darkest of days.
“Bring the character of the Prophets in ourselves, be good examples for others, bare patience and keep yourself connected with God,” said Imam Palwala. “Hopefully, God sends His mercy to all of us.”
Imam Palwala has offered to answer questions with anyone curious about the Muslim faith, or who wishes to just talk. If you would like to email him, you can click here, or call him at (309) 585-7975.