Roxy Todd Published

Hundreds Gather At W.Va. Mosque For Vigil


About 300 people gathered inside the Islamic Association of West Virginia last night to hold a vigil in memory of the 50 people who were killed in New Zealand last Friday. Religious leaders from several faiths were among those who spoke inside the South Charleston Mosque. 

Some of the speeches at the memorial were somber, like that of Joseph Cohen, West Virginia director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I’m tired of vigils. I’m tired over the confusion of what we have become, and how we’ve gotten here,” Cohen said.

Others, like Victor Urecki, the rabbi at B’nai Jacob synagogue, voiced anger, and frustration, at the violence that continues to spread from white supremacy.

“[white supremacy] is not a thing of the past. It’s not in the margins and the fringes of society anymore,” said Urecki. “It is being broadcast. It is being posted. It is being shared, it is being streamed. It is being tweeted and being used to energized a very twisted base.”

But Urecki closed with a message of love for those of the Muslim faith.

“I am also glad that we’re here, and in such incredible numbers. Because as much as we don’t want to be here, it is important for our dear Muslim brothers and sisters to see this.”

Like Urecki, several of the speakers were religious leaders from Christian, Catholic, or Jewish faith who have friends within the Muslim community.

After the speeches, several hundred people gathered together to talk, laugh, and be together over refreshments.

“We are very appreciative of the community’s support,” said Nazia Ahmed, who worships at the Islamic Association of West Virginia. “It is very reassuring to see such a large number of non-Muslims who are here to show their support and the condemnation of what happened in New Zealand.”

Ahmed said she is still grappling with many emotions over the killing in New Zealand last Friday, which killed dozens of people as they were praying inside two mosques. “Because it was in the house of our worship. It was Muslims, it was humans. It was done in hatred. We are all upset with it, and we are appreciative of all the support here.”

Many of the people at Tuesday’s vigil said this was their first time entering a mosque. Some of them said they would like to return, to continue to keep better lines of communication between people of different faiths.