Local faith leaders urge unified stand against bigotry after New Zealand mosque attacks

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The pain and fear of the New Zealand attacks are being felt across the ocean in central Ohio as local Muslims gathered Friday for prayer.

They joined with other faith leaders to urge a united stand against hate and bigotry.

In the Muslim faith, Friday is a day of prayer.

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Seventeen hours ahead and half a world away from Columbus, Muslims in New Zealand were gathering for the same prayers when the attacks happened at two mosques, leaving at least 49 dead.

"It's our day of prayer. It's our day to be who we are in community with one another. And it's our day to come together in our safe space, our refuge, our mosque," said Nicol Ghazi, Director of Muslim Family Services.

Friday, local Muslim and other faith leaders came together in grief to call for an end to the bigotry that fuels such violence:

"In the coming days, we will probably hear that the shooter was deranged, a lone wolf, at worst, maybe part of a small pack," said Ghazi. "Isn't that what we uttered about the Tree of Life shooter in Pittsburgh? Isn't that what we talked about when the shooter shot up the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston? And there's many other examples. Are we seeing the pattern yet? And are we connecting the dots? And are we going to be people willing to open our eyes and lift our voices through this pain? These acts aren't so random."

"This kind of tragedy comes in a context. And that's a context of Islamophobia, hate, bigotry, xenophobia. And we should all stand tall and say no to any form of hate against any group," said Horsed Noah, Director of the Abubakar Asidiq Islamic Center.

"When you have someone like the president of the United States saying 'Islam hates us,' saying 'There are fine people on both sides,' when there are Nazis involved, it gives a sense of legitimacy to people who harbor very bigoted and ignorant beliefs," said Usjid Hameed of CAIR-Columbus.

"We are opposed to any speech or actions that encourage hatred or violence," said Sister Barbara Kane of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. "And we ask our elected officials also to commit themselves to opposing hate speech."

"Let us join together with our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community, as they have so often done with us," said Rev. Grant Eckhart of Jacob's Porch. "And let us at all times and all places, condemn this kind of hatred, bigotry, violence and death. That we might know peace."

Muslim leaders also asked for additional patrols from law enforcement at local mosques and Islamic centers.

"We have open lines of communications with area mosques," Columbus Police told 10TV. "CPD Homeland security officers are actually paired up with different faiths to keep the communication open and ongoing. Homeland Security is also looking into the suspect to see if there are any U.S. or central Ohio ties."