Pittsburgh responds to Christchurch mosque attacks with increased security
Two Pittsburgh Police vehicles parked at Market Square, Pittsburgh. (John Marino via Wikimedia Commons)
(Pittsburgh) — Pittsburgh Police will be increasing patrols at area mosques and the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh this weekend after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand left 49 worshippers dead.
The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings left a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.
The attack took place during Friday prayers at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque.
The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh’s program director Mohammad Sajjad said Friday is by far the busiest day for their location, drawing hundreds of worshippers. Pittsburgh Police will be present for Friday services and Sunday school.
“I’m sure people are thinking, you know, this could happen to us,” Sajjad said. “We’re going to try to do everything we can to make sure that people feel safe.”
After the Tree of Life shooting in October, the center’s board of directors created a security and safety committee.
“[The goal is] to take recommendations and try to implement them to make sure people that come to the ICP are feeling safe and that there’s enough security here,” Sajjad said.
Recommendations from the committee will be implemented in the coming weeks.
Police escort people away from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
The Christchurch attacks drew condemnation from Pittsburgh religious leaders across the spectrum.
“We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Christchurch, New Zealand, those around the world, and those who stood by us here in Pittsburgh,” the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinical Association said in a statement. “Mosques, synagogues, churches, and all houses of worship are sacred spaces, made holy by those who enter them to pray. Violence committed at the time of prayer is nothing short of an attack on the soul of a people. Gun violence is a plague that impacts lives around the world.”
“Our local community knows all too well the shock and horror of a massacre such as this,” said Bishop David Zubik of the Cathoolic Diocese of Pittsburgh in a statement. “I hope the Muslim community in Christchurch will know the love and support of their neighbors near and far in the face of the evil they have experienced.”
Christchurch is home to nearly 400,000 people and is sometimes called the Garden City. It has been rebuilding since an earthquake in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed many downtown buildings.
Before Friday’s attack, New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history took place in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.