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Muslims in Springfield Reflect on New Zealand Mosque Shootings

Omair Haq
Flickr via Creative Commons

The Islamic Center of Springfield opened its doors to the public in mid-April to “reflect on the New Zealand Mosque shootings,” and to engage members of the community in discussion with local Muslims, giving people an opportunity to ask questions about Islam and to hear the stories of Muslims in the Ozarks.

Wafaa Kaf, Coordinator of the women’s section at the Islamic Center of Springfield, said the event was held in response to the recent tragedies at two New Zealand mosques, which left 50 dead.

“That was beyond imagination," Kaf said. "Even non-Muslims were telling me, 'will you have a service? Could we do something to support you?' I wanted to stay a little bit after the incident, because we get so emotional when you hear the news. So we said yes, we will have an open house and we will bring the community together, just again to support each other and to say, 'Whatever happened, happened. It’s not the end of the world. We have to get over that and we have to be together.'”

Samiha Khan, a Muslim teenager in the Springfield community, said she hopes the open house encouraged people to learn more and ask questions

“This whole thing was an opportunity to bring everybody together no matter what their faith was, and be able to have a conversation about what matters to us. And what we all have in common that makes the most sense to us so that we can understand each other and make sure that more tragedies don’t happen to people because of their minority status or whatever.”

Khan said she feels safe in Springfield despite recent global and local events. A member of the mosque, Richard McLendon, was arrested April 10 after he made a threat to “kill everyone there.”

“It’s a safe place," Khan said. "It’s a good place, especially for the Muslim community. But I think that there are outliers and I think obviously there always is more that can be done to help fix that.”

Arwa Abdelhakiem, another Muslim teenager said, while she doesn’t feel unsafe here, there are others who don’t feel the same.

“Well, personally, I do feel safe but I cannot speak for every single Muslim in Springfield," Abdelhakiem said. "I have friends that do not feel safe. Not just in their schools, but going out to the stores, going out in the streets. So definitely, there is something that needs to be done, and I feel like that should be a topic that we all talk about and figure out what to do in here in Springfield. And not just Springfield but other places as well.”

Abdelhakiem said she feels the open house was a success because of the discussion it created, and the opportunities it presented for others to learn about Islam.

“I feel like the biggest thing,to stop assumptions, to stop the ignorance, is simply just to learn,” Abdelhakiem said.

The open house was co-sponsored by Missouri State University Multicultural Services.