OPINION: In memory of Christchurch

Shams Mustafa

In memory of the Christchurch mosques victims, New Zealand created a digital memorial to honor the 50 Muslims who were shot during Friday prayers.

The digital memorial includes pictures of the victims and their stories. A picture of a young boy named Mucad Ibrahim was titled with “the youngest victim.” His story doesn’t say much, as Mucad is only 3 years old. He was described as “playful” and “energetic,” just like any kid at his age. When I looked at his brown eyes, I saw my own son, Malek, who is 2 years old.

The mosque is one of Malek’s favorite places to go. He loves running around in the wide area where we pray, jumping on my back or imitating me while I am praying. The sound of his laughter lights up my heart every time we go there.

About a week after the New Zealand shootings, BuzzFeed reported a fire at a mosque in Escondido, California, on a Sunday morning. Officers found graffiti on the walls referencing the New Zealand attacks, and the investigation is still in progress.

I can’t deny that my fears increase every time I hear of a mass shooting. Terrorism doesn’t have a specific race or religion. Anyone can be a target, even kids. And as a mother, I want my son to grow up without fearing to pray.

In the aftermath of the New Zealand shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern showed the world the real meaning of leadership. Nearly a week after the shootings, Ardern moved to ban all military-style, semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

The Australian model showed a successful outcome in implementing a similar ban. After the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, Australia destroyed more than a million weapons. CNN reported that as a result, mass shootings dropped to zero, gun suicides declined by an average of 4.8% per year and gun-related homicides declined by an average of 5.5% per year.

Although a study declared that the United States has more public mass shootings than any other country, implementing strict gun laws in America is debatable. However, there is still a chance that we can prevent mass shootings from happening.

Before Dylann Roof opened fire on 12 people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, he expressed his dark thoughts on a website.

“I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” he said on his website.

Robert Bowers, who murdered 11 Jewish people at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh earlier this year, also expressed his hate on social media days before committing the massacre.

“HIAS — Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he wrote. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he said, the Daily Beast reported.

This scenario carries on to the New Zealand shooter . He didn’t only send a manifesto before murdering Muslims on a Friday prayer, but he went live showing off his brutality. It also showed the world a terrorist doesn’t always have to be a man with a beard and related to ISIS.

Shooters now use social media to announce their hate crimes, and many users get pervaded by these ideas. Monitoring alarming content, such as hate speeches, disturbing threats and images, can prevent crimes. If a passenger can’t say the word “bomb” on a plane or airport, then the government should investigate anyone who posts malefic words or pictures.

Our responsibility is not less important than the government. Our solidarity as one community is what makes us gain our strength back. When we stand up together — ­Muslims, Christian, Jews and all religions — our kids will know this is how the world should be. If we showed our kids how to accept and tolerate others, I am sure they will do the same.

Contact Shams Mustafa

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