PORTLAND, Ore. — Members of Portland's Muslim community are understandably fearful, but they also have a tremendous amount of resolve in the wake of the mass shootings in New Zealand.
It is Friday and that means families will pour into the Rizwan Mosque to pray in Southwest Portland.
They will dedicate themselves to worshiping despite the news out of Christchurch, New Zealand.
“I was shocked and devastated,” said Harris Zafar, the director of outreach for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which operates the Rizwan Mosque. It is the first mosque that was built in Portland.
He and so many others are devastated after nearly 50 people died in terrorist attacks on two separate mosques in New Zealand. It happened during Friday prayer around 1:40 in the afternoon in Christchurch.
“The worshipers were sitting ducks. They're in there with their backs to the door, worshiping their creator,” Zafar said.
“The brutality of it is a crime against humanity," he said.
Zafar said there is overwhelming fear and concern in Muslim communities locally and all over the world. But there's also resolve.
“We're not going to act like we're prisoners in our own homes,” said Zafar. “We won’t hide from society. We're still going to be out, speaking with everyone, opening our doors to our mosques,” he said.
But Zafar said more has to be done to combat the hateful ideology and rhetoric fueling attacks like the ones in New Zealand.
“No country is safe from that, which also means we can't continue to ignore it,” said Zafar.
“We are so close to this happening to us,” said Seemab Hussaini, the co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“For those of us who are fighting for social justice, this has been something that we unfortunately expect. The rhetoric has been increasing,” said Hussaini.
Hussaini is also a community activist with Unite Oregon and said there have been many conversations with city and state leaders about hateful ideology and what to do about it.
“There are solutions that we’re actively working on. We’re part of the Hate Crimes Task Force with the Oregon Attorney General,” Hussaini said.
He said a number of groups across Oregon have come together to draft hate crimes legislation that would help protect hate crime victims and increase advocacy for them.
Hussaini and many others are working to enact something they believe will make a real difference in curbing hateful rhetoric and violence.
For Zafar, now more than ever, he said people can't just offer "thoughts and prayers." It's time to seriously start a dialogue.
“That dialogue of how dangerous white supremacy really is,” he said.
“I think it's everyone's responsibility, not just to point the finger of where extremism lives somewhere else in the world, but to look in the mirror to see how the scourge of extremism exists here. All around us here in Portland as well."
Zafar said people in all social circles have a part to play in eradicating such hateful and extreme views.
For instance, he said instead of an annoyed eye roll when you hear something hateful, engage in a meaningful conversation right then and there.
Portland police said there will be increased patrols around faith-based locations. On Friday afternoon, a Portland police car was seen at the Rizwan Mosque in Southwest Portland.