BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Leaders at the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge say they’ve been overwhelmed with supportive phone calls and messages in the week since a terrorist killed 50 Muslim worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“We got a lot of friends who called us and who wanted to assure us. Those friends, they are Christian, Jewish, different denominations, and we wanted really to do something to give them a chance to come and meet with us,” said Emal Nofal, a spokesman for the center.
A candlelight vigil drew a large crowd Friday night at the mosque on E. Airport Ave. across from Independence Park. Amy Khan brought her young daughter.
“[The attack] was terrifying, because I thought, ‘That could be my family, that could be my kids,’” she said.
Khan converted to Islam 30 years ago and recently moved to Baton Rouge from Kansas. She said she feels safe in the city and was glad to see so many people of different faiths gathered in one place.
“If we would be more open to learning about other cultures, and about each other, and about other religious beliefs, a lot of these problems would not happen in our world,” Khan said.
A Jewish rabbi spoke to the crowd, along with a Presbyterian minister. Their message was one of solidarity and brotherhood.
Nofal said the attack is a wake-up call for their center. He said they’ve been in touch with several law enforcement agencies and are planning active shooter drills at the mosque. They’re also re-evaluating the building’s security systems.
“We got some promises from the experts in that field in the State Police that they will come and look at our facility and help us,” Nofal said.
Nofal and Khan both invited members of the public to visit their congregation of about 500 Muslims.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about what Muslims believe, and what we think, and how women are treated, and how children are treated,” Khan said. “And I would welcome anybody who wanted to know more to please come to the mosque and actually get the truth from somebody that’s actually Muslim.”