MAPLEWOOD, NJ – They stood on the corner of Maplewood Avenue and Baker Street with candles on Monday night.
Their message was to stop hate.
About 50 people came out that evening for a vigil to honor those who were killed in the New Zealand massacre last Friday. Religious leaders, members of the governing bodies in Maplewood and South Orange, and New Jersey politicians current and former were in attendance.
“It brings sorrow and sadness to the heart,” said Imaam Daud Haqq of the NIA Masjid & Community Center in Newark. “It is sad but at the same time it helps us to bring that hope of humanity.
“God created us all to live on this planet,” he said.
The vigil was organized by Maplewood Village Committeeman Dean Dafis and Marcia Bloomberg, religious justice committee chairwoman for SOMA Action in response to the shootings at two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand on March 15 that killed 50 people.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has since ordered an inquiry into whether government agencies could have prevented the attack, the New York Times reported. New Zealand officials are wondering if there was something they didn’t see about shooting suspect, 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who was described as being polite by people who knew him, according to the New York Times article.
“We have to recognize where hate comes from and learn to recognize its early signs,” said Bloomberg.
“We should come together next time in gladness and not sadness,” Bloomberg said, noting that during tragic times like this incident people need and want to be together to share in their sorrow and hope for the future.
Muslims in South Orange and Maplewood, she said, “felt the impact acutely” although the massacre happened on the other side of the world.
“What happened in New Zealand was terrifying,” said Nada Alzoubi, the first Muslim American-elected Maplewood District Leader.
Alzoubi was elected last year as one of Maplewood's District Leaders. She is a longtime resident in town.
Other speakers included Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, former New Jersey Gov. and State Senator Richard Codey (D-27), Adam Morsy from the Islamic Center in Union County, Imaan Ashraf Latif NIA Masjid and Community Center in Newark, Mohamed Elshekh vice-president of the Muslim Student Association at Seton Hall University, Rabbis Jesse Olitzky and Rachel Marder from Congregation Beth El, Rabbi Mark Cooper from Oheb Shalom, the Rev. Brenda Ehlers from Morrow Church, Rabbi Dan Cohen from Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, and New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27).
After the vigil, participants marched to the Maplewood Public Library where they spoke about implementing community programs that would combat “Islamophobia,” anti-Semitism and racism.