By Zainab Iqbal
Published: March 27th, 2019
The New Zealand Massacre brought pain and death, but at Brooklyn College and around the word, it also brought love and peace. About 80 students, along with professors and President Michelle Anderson gathered at the new Leonard & Claire Tow Center for the Performing Arts to grieve the 50 lives that were lost and to show solidarity.
Corrinne Greene, President of the BC Chapter of the Young Progressives of America (YPA) noted that the lobby of the Center was normally filled with so much light. On this particular day though, it was a bit dark, as it was raining heavily outside.
“The light will return,” she said.
Rabbi Reuven Boshnack led a Jewish prayer and Imam Ahmed Ali recited the Fatiha, the first chapter of the Quran. Brooklyn College Anthropology Professor Rhea Rahman spoke about the dangers of white supremacy.
“All forms of oppression are interconnected and… none of us are free until all of us are free,” she said.
Professor of Judaic Studies David Brodsky iterated the fact that a three-year-old kid was murdered. “What have we become as a society?” he asked.
“Islamophobia, like racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia, feeds on our inability to see the humanity in others. Our inability to relate to someone who looks or talks or worships God differently than ourselves,” he said. “It is the inability to accept others as they are, for who they are. How deep must that fear and prejudice run in order to not be able to recognize the innocent humanity of a three-year-old child?”
In a passionate speech, president of the Islamic Society Bilal Khan told the room a story of the Prophet Muhammad who once compared good and bad companionship to a perfume seller and a blacksmith.
“The Prophet Muhammad said good companionship is like you’re with a perfume seller. Either he will give you some of the good smell, some of the perfume, or at the very least, the good smell with emanate on to you,” Khan said. “Bad companionship is like being around a blacksmith. Either you will burn your clothes or the bad smell with emanate on your body.”
“We have to ask ourselves, who are we? Are we the perfume seller or are we a blacksmith? Are we emanating good morals and good character… or are we spreading hate and Islamophobia?” he said. “Are we teaching love and peace or we teaching hate and blindness?”
Anderson spoke about the rise in hate crimes throughout the world. She mentioned the deadly attack in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“These horrific acts of hate are the acts of white supremacists and anti-Semites and Islamophobes who feel emboldened by the political climate around the world that far too often facilitates hate,” she said. “We at Brooklyn College stand against hate.”
“We must come together to learn from one another across our differences of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation,” she said. “These are people, the same as us. They have good hearts and good souls and are good people.”
She took a verse from the Quran that states, “If He had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues.”
“The passage tells us to embrace our differences,” Anderson said. “We are being tested now in our good deeds to do good for and to one another.”
Khan spoke about another important verse from the Quran that states, “Whoever kills a person, it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a person, it is as thought he has saved all mankind.”
“We have to break down the walls… and come together as a community on the basis of humanity,” Khan said. “On the basis that each and every one of us has the same blood running through our veins.’
At the end, everyone was asked to hug the person sitting next to them. The solemn room then filled with chuckles. People got up and hugged one another and told them they mattered.
“I want you to know that you are welcomed here,” Greene said. “I’m glad you are here and that you matter. I’m grateful for your presence. You belong in this community.”