At least 50 attend Chapman vigil for victims of New Zealand shootings

Hakeem Wakil, president of Chapman’s Muslim Student Association, spoke at a vigil for the victims of the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. Some, like Wakil, wore red to honor those killed. Photos by Mia Fortunato

Editor’s note: A student’s name in this story has been changed to protect the safety of the student and his family.*

Farid*, a freshman at Chapman, came home at around 4 a.m. after a night out and checked his Twitter. A live video of the March 15 Christchurch shootings in New Zealand that left almost 50 dead popped up on his screen.

He didn’t know that a of his family member would be one of the 50 people left wounded.

“My mom’s cousin was in the attack and he was shot three times. He is in critical condition still, and he has three young children,” said Farid, a business administration major who is part of Chapman’s Muslim Student Association (MSA). “A lot of people have sympathy for it, but I have a personal connection.”

On March 26, MSA honored the victims of the mass shooting with an event at the Fish Interfaith Center called “Terrorism Has No Religion.”

About 50 students, staff and faculty members attended, including Farid, some wearing red to show solidarity and honor those who were killed in the attack. Gail Stearns, dean of the Wallace All-Faiths Chapel and Dean of Students Jerry Price were among those in attendance.

“Red symbolizes love something that can bring us all together, said Hakeem Wakil, president of MSA. “We wanted to denounce Islamophobia and bring the Chapman community together in light of this attack.”

The event began with a prayer, followed by an introduction by Wakil. Stearns and Shaykh Jibreel Speight, Chapman’s director of Muslim Life, spoke.

“The best thing we could do is to understand world religions,” Speight told The Panther. “You can’t be a global citizen if you don’t know there are world religions – Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, et cetera. Students and faculty are ignorant about this.”

Chapman’s Director of Muslim Life, Shaykh Jibreel Speight, told The Panther that too few Chapman students and faculty understand world religions.

Mahmoud Samer El-Farra, director of the California branch of advocacy group March For Our Lives, also spoke to those in attendance about coming together to create change.

“We still have a lot of work to do. We can’t ignore it, fight against it,” El-Farra told The Panther. “(The shooting) was motivated by white supremacist and white nationalist rhetoric that started here in the United States, so we have to set an example to rest the of the world to denounce hate and any form of racism, religious intolerance.”

Some members of Chapman’s Muslim community were not surprised by the attack, in light of hate crimes targeted toward certain religions taking place on a local and global scale.

About a week after the New Zealand attack, a mosque in Escondido, California, about 75 miles south of Chapman, was defaced with anti-Muslim graffiti that referred to the shooting. A fire that broke out outside the building is being investigated as potential arson.

“All these instances – we have to be prepared and we have to come together at Chapman so that does not happen,” Wakil said.

One of Wakil’s professors sent a letter to the Muslim Student Association, he said, and another held a moment of silence during a class.

“It is beautiful to see several deans, professors and people of different religions come together,” Wakil said. “It is important to remember the victims, say their names and continue to fight islamophobia, white supremacy and other forms of hate.”