Houses of worship in South Florida mourn, step up security after New Zealand attacks

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Houses of worship across South Florida have stepped up security while mourning the New Zealand attacks that killed scores of fellow Muslims.

Worship on Friday at the Islamic Center of Greater Miami in Miami Gardens began with special prayers for the dozens of lives lost.

“Muslims are mourning. We are mourning,” said Wilfredo Ruiz of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “The New Zealand community experienced the worst of humanity’s hate.”

A Miami Gardens Police cruiser sat outside the house of worship, Friday afternoon.

City of Miami officials said all mosques will be provided with extra security.

“Our residents don’t have to ask. We’re going to go out and be there for them,” said Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina. “We just want to make sure that our residents and our visitors know that they can go pray, and we’re going to provide a certain level of security for them.”

Ruiz said the entire Muslim community is still reeling from the shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

“The New Zealand Christchurch community fell victim of a vicious attack, costing the lives of at least 49 individuals. There are other dozens in the hospital right now,” he said.

One Imam said he will be taking his own precautions when he delivers his sermon later Friday evening.

“I personally give a Friday sermon. I will be armed when I give today’s Friday sermon,” said Hassan Shibly of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Worshiper Tahera Let said she doesn’t know how to explain the mass shooting to her children.

“My kids are 7 and a half and 5, so they don’t know yet what’s happened, and I’m not sure how I’m going to explain it,” she said, “but we’re going to try and teach them what our faith has taught us. From what I understand, the first victim’s last words were ‘salaam alaikum,’ which means ‘peace be upon you,’ and that’s what our faith has taught us, so we’ll carry that, and we’ll use that to teach them.”

Leaders at the Islamic Center of Broward County said they have been receiving concerned calls from members of the community questioning what security measures will be taken following the massacre.

Community members reached out for answers about safety concerns for Friday’s worship services, which community leaders are taking very seriously.

“The whole world should be mourning. As people were following our Creator’s mandate to the Muslim community to congregate and pray on Fridays,” said Ruiz.

The Islamic Center of Greater Miami will host an interfaith service on Sunday afternoon. It is open to everyone. For more information, click here.

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