REDMOND, Wash. -- More than 1,000 people gathered at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound to show support for the Muslim community following the attack in New Zealand.
People of all faiths and backgrounds were welcomed into MAPS for an interfaith vigil, prayers, stories and support.
Nayab Khan attended the service with his two sons. He says one of his childhood friends was among the 50 people killed in the attack in New Zealand.
“I started calling him and he wouldn’t pick up the phone and the next day I learned that he was hurt,” said Khan. He added the two went to grade school together in Pakistan, and later Khan moved to the United States and his friend moved to Christchurch, New Zealand.
Khan says his friend was like every other person, living an ordinary life, focused on his family and was preparing to attend his son’s wedding in a few months. His son was also killed in the attack, according to Khan.
“I saw the video and I saw my friend try to take down the shooter. He was a regular guy. But he ended his life doing something to try to save others,” said Khan.
Khan says he hopes being at the Monday night service with a diverse group of people will help his young sons see this community as more inclusive than divisive.
For people who attend the Mosque, like executive director of MAPS-AMEN Aneela Afzali, she says what happened in New Zealand is one of her biggest fears.
“Honestly this has been one of my personal fears that I will be down in prayers and someone will walk in and do a horrific act like in New Zealand, so it hurt every one of us,” said Afzali.
Afzali says combating hatred has to start with education, which was a part of the message tonight, that action in addition to prayers are needed.
“They include getting to know you Muslim neighbors, building those personal relationships so they are not manipulated with false information that the Islamophobia industry spreads,” said Afzali.
Afzali says part of the action plan was laid out in the program, encouraging people to connect with local politicians to support bills encouraging inclusivity.
MAPS will host upcoming events for the community to get to know the Muslim community. They can be found here.