Security Increased at American Mosques After New Zealand Attack

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Security Increased at American Mosques After New Zealand Attacks

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Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslims should exercise caution as they attended Friday prayers.CreditCreditBrendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Timothy Williams

Security at mosques around the United States was tightened on Friday as law enforcement officials and political leaders denounced deadly attacks at two New Zealand mosques and tried to assure Muslims that they would be protected while practicing their faith.

The New Zealand attacks, which killed at least 49 people and injured dozens of others, occurred during morning prayers in the city of Christchurch.

[Read our live briefing for the latest updates on the attack.]

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, this nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said on Friday that Muslims around the world were in mourning and needed to exercise caution as they attended prayers. He said the attacks were part of a rising incidence of intolerance in the United States and abroad.

“We are united against hate speech that sees immigrants as invaders,” Mr. Awad said at a news conference in Washington. “One should not tolerate hate speech because hate speech leads to violence. Now we are looking at the result of hate speech.”

In New York and other major American cities, the police intensified security around mosques. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city had decided to increase police presence at mosques throughout the city “out of an abundance of caution.”

“New Yorkers heading to prayer can be confident that their city will protect them,” he said.

Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, who is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, said on Twitter that the attacks in Christchurch were “chilling news to wake up to.”

“In the face of this horror, I’m mourning with, and holding our community extra close today,” she said. “We must not live in fear.”

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Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, called the attack in New Zealand chilling, and said she was in mourning with fellow Muslims.CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images

And in St. Paul, home to a large Muslim community, the Police Department assured residents that they would be protected.

“We want our Muslim family members, friends and neighbors to know that we’ll do everything possible to keep you safe and secure in the city we share,” the department said in a Tweet.

President Trump denounced the attacks. “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques’” he wrote on Twitter. “The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”

In Pittsburgh, where an attack last year on the Tree of Life synagogue killed 11 people, city officials said they had “heavy hearts and an all-too-intimate understanding of what the people of New Zealand are enduring.”

The city said its officers had been in contact with local Islamic leaders and had increased patrols at mosques and other areas.

“Pittsburgh will protect all houses of worship and the right to freely and safely practice your religion without fear,” the city said in a statement.

In Chicago, the Muslim Community Center, one of the city’s oldest mosques, said it had requested extra police at its schools and other facilities and would hire more security staff as well.

“Please be vigilant by keeping your eyes and ears open and being aware of your surroundings,” the center said in a Facebook post.

Mitch Smith contributed reporting.

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