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B.C. Muslim community vows to ‘stand strong’ in face of New Zealand mosque shootings

B.C. Muslim community vows to ‘stand strong’ in face of New Zealand mosque shootings
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Omar (left), a practicing Muslim, talks with Roy, a Christian, at a rally held outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday in support of the Muslim community and the victims of Thursday s terror attack in New Zealand.

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Multiple Lower Mainland communities held rallies and vigils this weekend to honour the victims of Thursday’s shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

The events followed similar outpourings of grief in Vancouver and around the world, which also served as displays of strength for Muslim communities in the face of rising Islamophobia in Canada and abroad.

Fifty people were killed and dozens more injured in the attacks in Christchurch. A suspect, Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder and will likely face more charges when he returns to court in April.

In Burnaby on Saturday, hundreds gathered at Masjid Al-Salaam to pay their respects, with community members saying they were heartened by the number of non-Muslim people who took time to visit and offer their sympathies.

“It’s a very sad feeling, knowing our fellow Muslims have been slaughtered,” the mosque’s director, Daud Ismail, said. “It’s a very painful time for the community, but we are getting very good support. People are coming and hugging us and giving us love, which we appreciate.”

Jamil Khan with the Burnaby branch of the B.C. Muslim Association said all faiths were welcome to come to any mosque at any time to show their support.

“We’re a pretty jovial community overall,” he said. “Different faiths get together here, and we share our views and ask each other questions so the support we’re getting from the other communities is overwhelming.”

Other vigils were held Saturday at mosques in Maple Ridge and Richmond.

On Sunday, a large gathering took place on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, bringing hundreds more to loudly voice their rejection of the violence seen in Christchurch.

One of the speakers was Shaukat Khan, a Surrey man who was friends and high school classmates with Naeem Rashid, one of the victims of the attacks.

Khan said he treated him like a father figure.

“If you hurt yourself, he’d be the first person to come to your rescue,” he said. “He’d sit with you and make you feel better.”

Naeem Rashid, who was killed in the attack on a New Zealand mosque Thursday. Rashid is being hailed as a hero for trying to disarm the gunman.
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