A terrorist attack that killed 49 people Friday at two separate mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch did not deter local Muslims from attending a prayer service at the Talent mosque, Masjid Al-Tawheed, Friday afternoon.
It is the only mosque between Eugene and Redding, California.
Magdy Zaky, the mosque's imam, or deliverer of ceremonies, said that the community cannot live in fear.
"I told the Muslim community not to let the fear go in their hearts," Zaky said. "We should support each other, all the faith communities in the valley."
He said he stressed that Muslims shouldn't be afraid, but in fact they need to be open with the wider community to show that they are not a “scary people.”
“People are scared. Scared of the religion. Scared of the minority and just like if I don't know much about somebody, I get scared,” Zaky said. “We have to reach out.”
Zaky said in order to be more open to the community, the mosque, located at 470 S. Pacific Highway, Talent, holds a potluck dinner at 5 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month. He invites the public to attend and taste dishes prepared by members of the congregation from around the world. He said it’s a good way for the community to come talk to the congregation and learn a bit about the religion and different cultures.
Rogue Valley native Amy Mahmoud said she was afraid to attend the regular service Friday, but her husband persuaded her to go to pray for the victims. She left her 11-month-old son at home for safety.
“This area is safe, and I don’t think anything would happen,” Mahmoud said. “But that’s what everybody always says, ‘you never thought it would happen.’ Sorry to say this world has a lot of violence and evilness and you just never know what could happen.”
She said she is close with two of the New Zealand victims, a father and son by the names of Mohammed and Atta Elayyan, respectively.
Mohammed had multiple bullet wounds in his neck and shoulders but has received life-saving surgery and is in critical condition, she said.
Atta is still missing, Mahmoud said as her voice began to crack.
“He has a baby girl and he’s in his 20s,” she said, wiping away tears. “He’s so young.”
She said the victims’ family lives in Salem and is desperately trying to purchase plane tickets to New Zealand but has been having difficulty.
“There’s too much evil. There’s too much evil in the world and we’ve got to put a stop to it,” Mahmoud said. “We have to be better people to each other. This world is too small, and life is too short.
“We all need to support each other as any good community should, regardless of religion,” Mahmoud said.
Zaky stressed the importance of remaining strong in times of despair.
“It’s a small group of people that try to put the fear in the rest of us, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, Christian or Muslim,” Zaky said. “It’s coward acts. If you let the fear in you, then you’re just done. You’re just paranoid and I don’t think that that’s a good thing.”
He said there weren’t as many people in attendance Friday because they are afraid.
“We cannot stop loving our religion, we cannot stop loving people and we are more connected here with other religious institutions,” Zaky said.
Members of the mosque reached out to local police and asked for extra security that day.
Two Talent police patrols circled the perimeter and monitored the mosque during the prayer service. A Jackson County sheriff’s deputy also kept watch. Other agencies were aware of the situation as well, according to Lt. Jennifer Snook.
“We just want to keep everyone safe here today,” Snook said.
Talent resident Dorian Hastings kept watch and sat in solidarity outside of the building while the congregation held its service. Hastings was part of the group that pushed the city to pass an ordinance to make all people in Talent feel welcome, regardless of who they are.
“I would like to do whatever I can to promote unity and to recognize that we’re all a part of one human family,” Hastings said. “Everyone should feel welcome here.”
She said she would normally worship inside the mosque, but she wanted to give the Muslim community space to process, and so she waited outside instead.
“It’s not like if anyone came in with an assault rifle that I could do anything, but I could be some type of warning,” Hastings said.
Zaky said he’s received a multitude of emails and other acts of support from the community.
“I want to thank everyone for the support and the police, we asked them to come and they did, so that’s a good thing,” Zaky said.
A few people set bouquets of flowers outside the door of the mosque.
Dorian said to a man walking to his car, “look at the beautiful flowers left here.”
“Yes, we live in a beautiful community. I am very grateful,” he said.
Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at email@example.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.