‘Too much to process’: Muslim community gathers at Hampshire Mosque in Hadley

  • Prayer beads held by Ahmed Ghoniem at the Hampshire Mosque in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Prayer beads held by Ahmed Ghoniem at the Hampshire Mosque in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/15/2019 4:42:23 PM

HADLEY — Even as Ahmed Ghoniem, a member of the Hampshire Mosque, heard about the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, late on Thursday night, he says he was not going to let fear prevent him from attending the weekly prayer the next day. 

A volunteer at the Hampshire Mosque leads the weekly prayer, and Ghoniem led the prayer on Friday. He encouraged members of the mosque to reject hate and instead embrace the values of their faith in response to the violence in New Zealand that left 49 people dead. 

“You may have very mixed feelings, and you may feel very angry,” Ghoniem said to members of the mosque who were sitting cross-legged and kneeling forward in prayer. “As you get angry, the only thing I would like to recommend to myself and to you, my brothers and sisters, is to remember that we are precisely angry because we believe in some values. And our anger should not make us forget any of that — we should continue to stand for these values.” 

Ghoniem continued: “We should never fall into the game of people who want to fuel hatred between human beings.” 

A white nationalist targeted two mosques in Thursday’s attack. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

Much of Ghoniem’s prayer focused on the many ways that Islam denounces violence. He also talked about the importance of standing for peace even amid such tragedy.

“From an Islamic perspective, a Muslim endures hardships in life, and we are all being tested — and we are all being tested by positive things as well as hardships,” Ghoniem said. 

After the prayer, Mohammed Abdelaal, a board member for the Hampshire Mosque, said that he felt “pain and horror” after hearing of the mass shooting in New Zealand. 

Abdelaal said he is afraid of the public’s desensitization to mass shootings due to their frequency on “any place on Earth.”

“We need to do something about it — we need to speak against it and make sure we are protecting our children and protecting innocent people who are heading to the house of worship to pray,” Abdelaal said. 

“To go to a house of worship and be a target of killing is just too much to handle and too much to process,” Abdelaal said. 

On Friday morning, Massachusetts State Police put out a statement to inform the public that there were no specific credible threats to any mosque or other houses of worship in Massachusetts, but that the agency would continue to monitor any possible developments.  

“Massachusetts State Police field units will maintain their usual high alert levels for any suspicious activity in their patrol areas, and, where applicable, increase the frequency of patrols around mosques and other religious facilities,” said Dave Procopio, spokesman for the state police. 

The shooting in New Zealand comes a week after the Northwestern District Attorney and the Northampton Police Department held a conference on safety at houses of worship. 

Abdelaal said he believes that ignorance towards Muslims and their culture fuels the hate behind such horrific violence. He said the mosque will be holding open houses for the public to invite members of the community to learn more about their faith and traditions. 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com 

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