Mosque security

KEEPING WATCH — Security guard Destini Lee stands Friday afternoon outside the American Islamic Institute of Antelope Valley after terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed 49 people and wounded dozens more.

PALMDALE — There was extra security Friday around mosques in the Antelope Valley after ter­ror attacks at two mosques in Christ­church, New Zealand, killed 49 people and wounded dozens more.

At least three people were ar­rest­ed in connection with the mass shootings, one of whom has been charged with murder, according to news reports. One of the suspected terrorists streamed live video of the attack to Facebook.

New Zealand Prime Minister Ja­cin­da Ardern described the at­tacks as “an extraordinary and un­prec­e­dented act of violence” and warned people not to share any disturbing video.

An armed guard stood Friday af­ter­noon outside the American Is­lamic Institute of Antelope Valley on Palmdale Boulevard. A Sheriff’s patrol vehicle with a deputy inside was also parked in the institute’s lot.

Kamal Al-Khatib, president and co-founder of the mosque, ex­pressed concern Friday about cop­y­cat attacks inspired by the sus­pect­ed who reportedly had white supremacist symbols on his weapons.

“We have to take any measures, especially when it’s (in the news),” Al-Khatib said.

Al-Khatib added he worked close­ly with the Los Angeles Coun­ty Sheriff’s Department to get their feedback and opinion. He also wanted to make sure there was a law enforcement presence at the mosques in Lancaster and Santa Clarita.

“We’ll act according to the need,” Al-Khatib said. “We’re not going to spare any money to save our broth­ers and sisters, All the money in the world is worth one of them getting injured.”

Al-Khatib added: “God help us. We’re getting discrimination ev­ery­where, in education and local gov­ern­ment.”

The Los Angeles County Sher­iff’s Department announced that Sher­iff Alex Villanueva reached out to the New Zealand Consul Gen­er­al, as well as Muslim faith leaders throughout the county to express his condolences.

 “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of New Zea­land as they work to deal with the challenging and troubling cir­cum­stan­ces created by these horrific at­tacks,” the department said in a state­ment. “Our level of vigilance is increased at mosques and Mus­lim cultural centers across the Coun­ty of Los Angeles.”

“We pray for the victims of the mass shootings that oc­curred on Friday, March 15, at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque and stand in solidarity with the New Zealand Muslim com­mu­nity as they go through this tragedy,” the Muslim Pub­lic Affairs Council said in a statement Friday. “The vic­tims of this act of mass vio­lence were innocent peop­le gathered for their con­gregational prayers, just as those in Quebec, Pitts­burgh and Charleston were.

“This type of violence is a direct result of in­div­id­uals and politicians who ex­ploit social divisions in order to foment fear and hate. Violence of this kind is unacceptable in any coun­try and should be col­lect­ively rejected. No­body should be made to fear to practice their faith or at­tend their place of wor­ship.

“As we work together to meet the demand of this mo­ment, we call on our elect­ed officials to use their platforms to stand to­geth­er with the Amer­ic­an Muslim com­munity, and to stand tall against hate speech. We must deal with the rise of white na­tion­al­ist ter­ror­ism and the threat it poses to our na­tion­al and human sec­ur­ity.”

The Islamic Center of Southern California planned to offer a prayer in absentia for the victims Fri­day at its Vermont Av­en­ue location. Omar Ricci, board chairman at the center, grieved for the lost lives Friday, but also tried to link the attack to the political climate in the Uni­ted States.

“When they were vul­ner­able, when they were least expecting it, they were attacked. And it is in that moment that 49 of our broth­ers and sisters’ hu­man­ity lost their earthly lives,” Ricci said.

“(As Muslims,) we be­lieve that those who per­ished are now in paradise and God knows best. By now, the attackers and their motives are clear: hate of Islam, hate of im­mig­rants, pursuit of white su­prem­acy, manifested in ter­ror and murder. Today, we have seen evil on Earth, evil that was premeditated and in­spired. The man­i­fes­to of the terrorists make that fact abundantly clear. And the fact that these ter­ror­ists drew inspiration from the white supremacist move­ment here in the Uni­ted States, who hailed our president, Donald Trump, should be yet anoth­er reason for us, as Am­er­icans, to have chills down our spine. What is our country becoming, and what is it exporting abroad?”

“We call upon President Trump to rescind his state­ment that Islam hates us.”

City News Service con­trib­uted to this story.

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