Last night, over 150 members of the Kirklees community came together to remember the victims of the Mosque attacks in New Zealand that they had heard about only yesterday morning.
The gathering took place at the Al-Hikmah centre and was jointly put together by IMWS, PKWA and Rabetah Ul-Ulama. Speakers in the hour-long vigil included IMWS Chair Dr Imtiyaz Patel, Tracy Brabin MP, Council Leader Cllr Shabir Pandor, Revd Mark Umpleby and Maulana Hashim Sacha.
Other dignitaries were in attendance and while Paula Sherriff MP, Fiaz Rashid of PKWA and Kim Leadbeater of More in Common were unable to make it, they sent messages of solidarity that were read out.
There was a sense of the tangible grief and pain felt throughout the room as Dr Imtiyaz Patel, Chair of IMWS rose to speak. By his own admission, a man who “could talk until the cows come home” found himself “lost for words in what I can say,”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families in the Christchurch terrorist attacks that have killed at least 49 people. This horrific attack highlights the dangers behind right-wing extremism and the negativity with which Muslims and minorities are being branded by much of the mainstream media worldwide.”
“Let us step aside from the reasons and remember the victims. Let us see them not as numbers but as that man who was our friend, as that lady who was our neighbour as that child who played with our child.”
“Let us consider the loss and stand together regardless of faith, race and nationalities to stand firm against hate and against those who propagate hate against anyone.”
A renewed call to finally define and tackle Islamophobia echoed throughout the evening as the speakers remembered the lights of life that had so tragically gone out that day. Maulana Hashim Sacha, spoke about standing in solidarity and about hate:
“As you will agree terrorism has no religion….Let’s stop hiding and stop debating about definitions. Hate is hate. Anti-Islamism must be the same as Antisemitism.”
Vowing to re-double her efforts on battling Islamophobia, Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen, said:
“My heart goes out to all the victims and their families during this awful time. Mosques are a place of worship and peace for the community and to be attacked whilst at prayer is a despicable act.”
Earlier on Friday, Kirklees lowered all Town Hall flags to half-mast and held a minute silence at 12pm to honour and respect the victims of this dreadful tragedy. Vigils have been held around the country, and the world, to remember those who had their lives taken away so suddenly at a time of worship.
Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, also found it difficult to find words to say, but praised the community “for coming together to comfort each other”, he said:
“The murderous act of terror that took place when people of Muslim faith came together to pray Friday prayers, on the most noblest days of the week…an act of terrorism that took place in front of us and streamed on social media is the most obscene act of terrorism I have ever seen in my life. I hope I don’t see it again…My heart goes out to the 49 people who passed away and dozens who have been maimed and injured.”
Reverend Mark Umpleby, a local priest who attended Friday prayers at Madina Masjid informed the crowd how he felt:
“None of us want to be here this evening, none of us woke up this morning and wanted to see the atrocities that had happened in Christchurch. Our thoughts and our prayers are with those in New Zealand.”
“We’re here as people who share in emotions. Emotions that we feel of the loss of today…As the call to prayer was given at [Madina] mosque, you cannot help but reflect on what happened 2000 miles away in New Zealand as people were there to pray.”
There was a feeling of personal loss among the diverse crowd as they listened and were reminded not only of those victims of terror in New Zealand, but of those in recent years in Finsbury Park, Manchester and Birstall.
“About an hour ago I received a message. One of the victims who tragically died is one who’s related to me. We have many people in that area who come from India. Who are from my village in India, who had settled in New Zealand many, many years ago.”
To those gathered, the saddening loss of human life served as a reminder of the consequences of hateful speech and of the need to stand together against hate and terror in all its forms.
It also served as a reminder of the overwhelming love and human bond that connects communities as people from all communities came together to stand in solidarity and grieve.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the terrible attack in New Zealand.