The Muslim community, usually in prayerful reflection on Friday, was reeling from the horrific, white supremacy terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand which killed 49 people and critically injured at least a dozen more.
This nation’s 3,000 Muslims woke up to the news as they prepared to engage in Friday prayers at the five mosques here.
As many as 41 worshippers were killed when a gunman stormed the Al-Noor mosque during weekly prayers Christchurch. The killer apparently drove to another mosque in Linwood, in the east of the city and killed seven more.
Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association, Suleiman Bulbulia, said members of the local community were “shocked” and “saddened” by the gun attacks.
At the Jama Masjid in the community of Kensington, St Michael, Imam Aakil Bhula encouraged members of the congregation to pray for the victims of the tragedy and their families. He also called for patience and encouraged worshippers to pray for their own safety and the safety of Barbados.
Bulbulia said Muslims were “extremely concerned” about the senseless act of violence, but were even more worried about an emerging wave of intolerance for religious and ethnic minorities worldwide.
He added that he did not expect such extreme terrorism would affect Barbados, but admitted he would not have expected it to occur in New Zealand.
Bulbulia said he spoke to the charge d‘affairs of the New Zealand High Commission here, as both noted that “New Zealand has not witnessed anything like this in history”.
He added: “This tragedy is another one in a line of similar acts of violence by individuals who have no regard for life, places of worship or humanity. We saw it in a synagogue over a year ago, we saw it in churches and you’re seeing it now in a mosque.”
Of the brazen shooter, Bulbulia said: “This place of peace and worship is eroded in their eyes and so the new concern overall is about where society is headed when people can do this so brazenly.
International media reports reported that Australian Brenton Tarran, 28, the main suspect in the mosque shooting appeared in court on a single murder charge and was remanded until April 5.
The gunman, who live-streamed the attack from a head-mounted camera, identifying himself in the footage, was seen shooting at men, women and children at the Al Moor mosque.
He then drove about 5 kilometres to another mosque in the suburb of Linwood where he conducted a second shooting.
Social media accounts in Tarran’s name were also reportedly used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked.
Bulbulia said: “From what I am reading, individuals like him are driven by a mentality of white supremacy and they look at persons that are not fitting into a certain portfolio of either race, creed or appearance and they view such people as outsiders.
“So I guess they are driven to decide that these people are not for us and so they must be against us.”
But Bulbulia was also critical of Australian Senator Fraser Anning, who blamed the violent attack on Muslim immigration.
“I think that rhetoric is found in many places in Europe and North America as well and it is unfortunate when politicians get involved in that type of rhetoric,” the Muslim community spokesman said.
But he expressed happiness that such deadly ideologies were not in the majority.
“I am very heartened that across the divide and the religious spectrum people recognise that an attack on one place of worship is an attack on all places of worship,” he said. “An attack on people in prayer in a mosque is similar to an attack on people in prayer in a synagogue or church.”
He also said among those sending messages of comfort were Christian leaders.
One message read: “[The terrorist attack] is more than tragic, it’s barbaric. It is inhumane. I just saw the video and I am stunned by the viciousness. My sympathy to the community.”
Bulbulia added: “Barbados has always been a tolerant, law abiding society where people enjoy freedom of worship without hindrance and I hope that it can be maintained forever.
“We hope that kind of misguidance doesn’t get root here in our country where we see people as outsiders or foreigners as we are all of Barbadian background or heritage, if not by descent, at least by being a citizen of this country, because we all look out for the development of Barbados.”