Secretary at the Kelowna Islamic Centre, Hamid Butt believes that welcoming community members into the Mosque will help break down any stereotypes of preconceived notions of Islam. photo: Sydney Morton

Kelowna Muslim student says deadly New Zealand attacks ‘hits close to home’

The president of the UBCO Muslim association is encouraging others to learn more about each other

After two attacks in New Zealand mosques left 49 people dead, a Kelowna student is encouraging others to connect with the Muslim community to end discrimination.

“I think a lot of us have been distraught including myself… It hits close to home because Friday is a special day for us,” said Sumayia Abedin, president of the Muslim Students’ Association at UBCO.

Jumu’ah is a weekly Friday prayer held just after 12 p.m.

READ MORE: Facebook, other tech companies scramble to remove New Zealand shooting video

“Mosques are not just places of worship, they’re places where study circles happen, events happen. People gather for different types of events. It’s a community base, and weekly a lot of Muslims are gathering on Fridays. For a lot of Muslims, it’s a sanctuary,” Abedin said.

READ MORE: B.C. police step up patrols at mosques after New Zealand shooting massacre

“So to see something like this at a mosque where people are getting killed… it hits close to home for a lot of students. It’s really painful.”

In February, the Kelowna Islamic centre and UBCO Muslim students hosted an Open Mosque Day as part of a B.C. wide event to foster relationships.

Hosting events like Open Mosque Day is a way to end discrimination against Muslims, as a way to show each other how alike we are, she said.

“This attack isn’t coming out of nowhere… it’s a product of a long sustained hateful Islamic messaging,” Abedin said.

If the perpetrators had actually taken time to learn about Muslims, they may have not committed the act, she said.

READ MORE: Quebec City Muslim worshippers condemn fatal New Zealand mosque attacks

As an international and visible Muslim student, Kelowna has been welcoming and accepting, she said. Her message is to stay positive.

“There are people who are concerned, (asking) should we be doing to the mosque today?” she said. “There’s no real fear as of now and I hope it doesn’t have to turn into a real fear.”

It’s time to learn about each other, learn about our neighbours and discover more about each other, she said.

“If you have a Muslim colleague, neighbour, reach out to them… learning about each other and sometimes if you have questions, it’s always better to ask your neighbour.”

“See for yourself, learn for yourself what Islam is about.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: New Zealand mosque shooter brandished white supremacist iconography

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