Elected officials need to denounce acts of hate, Florida Muslim leaders say

49 killed in shootings at New Zealand mosques

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida Muslim community leaders are calling for added security Friday and for officials to condemn acts of hate after 49 people were killed in terror attacks on two mosques in New Zealand.

The American Muslim Leadership Council sent out a message of unity Friday in Kissimmee and requested law enforcement presence at places of worship.

At least 49 people were killed and 20 were seriously injured Friday in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, in a carefully planned and unprecedented attack that has shocked the usually peaceful nation.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the incident a terrorist attack in a Friday press conference, saying the suspects held "extremist views" that have no place in New Zealand or the world.

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A total of 48 people, including young children with gunshot wounds, were admitted to a Christchurch hospital for treatment.

Three people were arrested in connection with the shootings. A 28-year-old man was charged with murder and will appear in court Saturday morning local time.

Before Friday prayer services outside a mosque in Central Florida, a group of Imams gathered to denounce the hate and any anti-immigrant rhetoric.

"It is, nevertheless, a horrific act we condemn in the strongest terms because it attacked people in a place of worship," said Imam Muhammad Musri, who is also the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.

Musri said several local Muslims reached out to him in fear of whether Friday's services would be safe.

"I've received countless calls and messages this morning from community members who are considering not showing up to services, they are afraid," Mursi said. "I want to say the community is safe, we have taken every measure we can to keep the community safe."

Musri said he refuses to let his congregation worship in fear. Several mosques have spent money to hire off-duty deputies and install cameras and gates. Musri said they even have volunteers in their congregation who skip out on prayer to stand watch.

"It's sadly the new normal," Musri said.

The AML Center Imam Helmi Abufarah El Agha said the Central Florida FBI office called the AML and promised more law enforcement at worship centers.

“The terrorists consider any successful breach of security in any targeted country success to their agenda,” Agha said.

The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-Florida, is calling on elected officials and community leaders to denounce the terrorist act against the Muslim community.

"We are calling our mosques, Islamic schools and other community religious institutions in the United States and around the world to consider instituting additional safety measures, particularly during times of communal prayer," CAIR-Florida communications director Wilfredo Amr Ruiz said. "We also expect to hear strong condemnations from our elected officials and community leaders denouncing not only this terrorist act but also the growing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate that appears to have motivated these white supremacist terrorists.”

The Orlando community is unfortunately familiar with the fear and pain following a mass shooting, leaders at The onePULSE Foundation said in a statement Friday. More than two years ago a terror attack at Pulse, an Orlando gay nightclub, killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others.

"These hateful acts of terror strike us in the places where we feel most safe and accepted, and the shock of that hate is felt around the world," the onePULSE Foundation statement read. "We want the community of Christchurch to know that Orlando is holding them up today. We still stand with you during this darkest time. There are no comforting words for those who lost their loved ones, but we hope the strength we send helps you. We stand with you in your grief."

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