After dozens of people were shot to death at two mosques in New Zealand, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is urging local mosques to increase security and to contact law enforcement if anything seems suspicious.
“We are asking all community members to remain vigilant at Friday prayers on March 15th,” CAIR-Washington posted on social media. “Mosque board members and religious leaders should request a police presence at their places of worship for prayers.”
The King County Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with the leaders and boards of mosques in the county and is stepping up patrols in all areas it serves, including cities the Sheriff’s Office contracts with, spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott said.
On the Eastside, Bellevue’s police department wrote on Twitter that “Chief (Steve) Mylett and our entire force stand with our Muslim community, ready to protect them and ALL those who call Bellevue home.”
The Seattle Police Department tweeted that it “stands with our Muslim community.”
“We have reached out to local mosques offering any assistance they might need. Although there are no imminent threats to Seattle, we are working closely with federal, state and local partners to monitor the situation,” the department tweeted. “If you see something, say something.”
CAIR-Washington also has information on its website about how to support the victims from New Zealand.
“We grieve with our brothers and sisters in New Zealand tonight,” executive director Masih Fouladi said in a statement. “This type of violent hate is unacceptable anywhere and particularly horrifying in a house of worship. No one should ever feel afraid while practicing their faith.”
The gunman, an Australian, posted a manifesto on social media in which he called United States President Donald Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity.” Trump denounced the attack but rejected the notion that the white nationalist movement is a rising threat worldwide.
FBI data released in November about religion-based hate crimes in the U.S. showed that 18.7 percent of hate crimes reported in 2017 targeted Muslims. Anti-Jewish hate crimes were the most common, making up 58.1 percent of religion-based hate crimes in 2017. In October 2018, a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, prompting Seattle-area police departments to step up patrols at houses of worship.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle tweeted Friday morning that its members are “appalled, sickened, and deeply saddened” by the attacks in New Zealand. “Together, we stand in solidarity with all minority communities in pursuit of understanding, compassion, and a world where all are welcome.”
In Seattle, the total number of reported hate crimes has risen dramatically, from 118 incidents in 2016 to 234 in 2017 — 45 of which involved crimes motivated by someone’s religion.
Metropolitan King County Council Chair Rod Dembowski released a statement Friday afternoon on behalf of the county, extending condolences “to our Muslim friends and neighbors” as well as the victims of the New Zealand attacks and their families: “We will continue to steadfastly support and foster a community that respects all people of all faiths and we will fight back against anyone and any group that works to undermine our commitment to a peaceful and loving community that respects, honors, and celebrates the promise of religious and political freedoms on which our country was founded.”
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