In light of the recent mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, where 50 Muslims were killed, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) held a memorial service to commemorate the lives lost. The event, which took place on March 19 at 6:30 p.m., drew a crowd of students, staff and faculty to Manchester Plaza.
“It was 50 different lives. Wives, husbands, couples, brothers, children,” said senior Noor Alghanem, president of MSA. “It was the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning. Every time I’d check my phone the death tolls would keep rising.”
On March 15, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year old Australian white supremacist, opened fire at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, killing 50 Muslim citizens in 36 minutes. Footage of the attack at Al Noor was broadcasted live on Facebook.
Senior Aadam Haque, who is also the secretary of the South Asian Student Association, attended the memorial service. Although he had the option to speak, Haque decided not to.
“I thought about [speaking at the podium], but I was too afraid I would break down,” Haque said.
Seven minutes prior to the attack, Tarrant shared a 74-page “manifesto,” which denounces immigrants as “invaders,” with several politicians and media outlets. Although the memorial was focused on commemorating the lives lost, there was also discussion about the political ramifications of the shooting.
According to Alghanem, MSA decided to host the memorial to stand as a unit against terrorism and white supremacy.
At the podium, students and faculty members spoke to parallels existing between the Christchurch shootings and the racial plights of African American communities here in the United States.
“This is a racist act … an act rooted in Islamophobia … a fear of immigration,” said Michael Pisapia, assistant professor in the Politics & International Affairs department.
Alghanem echoed this same idea during her address.
“Even though so many tragic events are happening around us, we won’t let them silence us because that’s what perpetrators want,” said Alghanem. “They want to make you afraid. They want to push you into a corner, and not let you practice your religion freely. They want you to be afraid to practice it, or speak out about it, and be to be afraid to say that you are proudly a Muslim.”
Hanging on the railings of Manchester Plaza were individual pictures of each victim, along with their names.
In response to the tragedy, the university responded with an email sent to all students and faculty members. However, it did not take action to organize a memorial service of its own.
“As students of Wake Forest I think it’s important that we feel some type of weight lifted off of us,” Alghanem said. “That it’s not all on us. That we don’t have to be the ones planning everything, and doing everything at a time when we feel kind of alone in that sorrow.”
Correction: The original version of this article had misquotes from students who attended the memorial. It also incorrectly stated that the manifesto was 15,000 pages; it was 74.