New Zealand shootings prompt heightened security at Chicago area mosques

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Muslim community on alert after terror attacks more than 8 thousand miles away.

Mosques across the country are stepping up security and police presence in the wake of the terror attacks targeting Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand Friday.

"This is very tragic that something like this could happen," said Abdel Yasin who attends mosque.

At the Downtown Islamic Center condolences pouring in from people of all faiths.

"It brings sadness," said Muhammad Ullah with the Downtown Islamic Center. "But with that, good thing happens, that people from all walk of life, they come close to each other."

Although there are no known threats in the region, Chicago Police Department is keeping a closer eye on area mosques as a precaution.

At the Muslim Community Center on the North Side and the Mosque Foundation in the Bridgeview, more police and private security can be seen.
"We talked to our children at the school that their safety is number one for us," said VP of Mosque Foundation, Safaa Zarzour. "We have the whole team here as opposed to normally on a Friday, a couple of people maybe, and we will be keeping up that security."

For Muslims attending services Friday, the attacks are weighing heavily on their minds and hearts, but vowing to not live in fear.

"We are not scared of anybody because we fear only Allah. That's the only thing we fear. What we did in our life, if we did good or bad," said Faiz Hassan who attends Mosque.

In the wake of tragedy, there is more of an effort to speak truth about the dangers of Islamophobia.

"Raising suspicions that merely because someone is Muslim that they are more susceptible or more likely to do harm or violence is wrong," stated Mitchell.

Which is why for years mosques have been holding open houses for people of all faiths.

"We want our fellow Americans to come and meet with the Muslims," Ahmed said. "Let's socialize. Let's eat together and work together for better humanity."

New Zealand native Daniel Thomas runs the global communications company Time Zone One, headquartered in Chicago.

The company has an office in Christchurch.
"Several of our team members were just around the corner, close proximity," Thomas said. "Thankfully everyone in our office is safe but one of our team member was actually visiting a mosque very close to where it happened."

Thomas said New Zealanders are resilient people.

"Even though it is a very dark time. It was very dark day [Friday]. They will rise. We will rise above it," Thomas added.

Faith leaders said the root of the problem is hate speech.

"We should watch what we're saying to our communities. Some people, and it is very clear to say, that some politicians rely on threats to achieve some political gains but the problem is this is one of the consequences," said Ahmed Arafat with the Mosque Foundation Imam.
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