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Bloomington community stand side by side Muslim neighbors

“I don’t know of any religion that promotes killing…”

That quote, and many others from Imam Saad Palwala, drew tears from an emotional group inside a Bloomington Mosque.

Prayer rugs were filled with Muslims seeking refuge, answers, and comfort after learning 49 of their own were murdered, and dozens more injured during a hate-filled attack in New Zealand, Thursday night.

Palwala, says he changed his entire sermon for Jummah or ‘Friday Prayer’ after he found out what happened.

“Many of us are still processing it.” Iman Palwala explained after he finished his religious address. But among his many messages of grief and sadness, were ones of inspiration and hope.

“We have to stand united and we have to bear patience.” Palwala added without hesitation.

Despite the message, Muslims in McLean County still expressed fear for their lives.

Even coming here today…it was something I was scared of.” admitted Noor Alsaqri. The 19-year-old Muslim woman greeted and hugged several visitors after the sermon, who’d come to show their support.

Not In Our Town, a Bloomington-based organization dedicated to building inclusive, safe communities, called on twin city residents to gather at the Mosque to show Muslim residents a zero-tolerance for hate crimes and to ensure they knew the community was behind them.

Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe, a member of Not In Our Town says showing support was an obligation, not a choice; especially given the fact that nearly a year ago, her own religious community experienced a similar fate. Last October, Tree of Life Synongogue in Pitssburgh, PA was the target of a mass-shooting that killed 11.

“…We have to be able to pay it forward and let our Muslim brothers and sisters know that we are sad. We are weeping with them and we are angry that there’s such hatred in this world.” Dubowe shared.

“It’s not good to look at one person and terrorize a whole group of people.” Alsaqri added.

The Imam reminded everyone that the actions of one person, should not color the way people view an entire group of people. In the face of such tragedy, his message was permeated with notes of forgiveness, love and unity.

“This transcends beyond race or religion. This is a human thing.” Imam Palwala included.

Christians, Muslims, Jews; even residents with no religious denomination agreed there is more work to be done, but they say they refuse to allow actions like the attack in New Zealand to do anything, but inspire them to love everyone equally.

Lauren Melendez

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