SWFL Muslim Women React to Christchurch Mosque Shootings
Every Wednesday, the women of the Port Charlotte-based mosque, Masjid Nur, host a gathering called Deen and Cuisine.
The women bring food to be shared after conversations or lectures about “Deen” — the Arabic word for religion.
In the weeks after 50 people were killed in two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Deen and Cuisine topic was their reactions to the news.
Lubna Alam is from Pakistan, where she said mosque shootings happen regularly.
"This mosque shooting has been happening in Pakistan for a decade now," Alam said. "Christchurch left us in so much shock because all of us think now we're safe in a first-world country."
The gunman live-streamed his actions on the internet. The video was already circulating in the United States, as people on the east coast were preparing for jumah — the Friday prayer — which is the Muslim equivalent of Sunday service.
"It looked like one of the video games my little brother plays," said 23-year-old Safina Muneer. "I thought it was a game."
While details continued to surface and people gathered and comforted one another during jumah in Port Charlotte, Alam was with her family at the airport. She said she had to have a serious conversation with her kids.
“I said, 'Look, this has happened in New Zealand, and I want you to know that if it ever happens while you are at the mosque, you better not be hiding. You better try to stop this guy. You better try to save some people’s lives. I don’t want to ever find out that you were hiding,'” Alam said.
Back at the mosque, the women said that they have not been fearful since the shooting.
Yolanda Mohammed said people continue attending the mosque just as they did prior to the shootings.
"This is our place of worship," Mohammed said. "Why should it deter us from coming to worship our god?"
While the women at Deen and Cuisine said they are not living in fear of an attack, the Islamic Center did contact local law enforcement to help them with security and to talk about preparedness.
Mohammed said a Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department officer instructed them to throw something at an intruder in the event of an attack.
“And, I’m thinking 'What do we have in here to throw? The only thing we have in here are Qurans,'" Mohammed said. "We're going to fling the Quran at him, you know, and pray that Allah forgives us for doing that, but that is the only thing we have around to throw are the Qurans.”
The Masjid Nur religious community group began in the homes of Port Charlotte Muslims back in the 1970s. Through the acquisition of property, it has blossomed into an Islamic Center that encourages interfaith activities.
Its members plan to continue to keep its doors open to the public.