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Butler County’s large Islamic Center responds to New Zealand attack: ‘Unacceptable in any country’

Published: Friday, March 15, 2019 @ 3:25 PM

Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Twp. FILE
Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Twp. FILE

The slaughter of dozens of worshipers inside two New Zealand mosques Friday was met with heavy hearts and swift condemnation locally.

The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Twp. issued a statement Friday afternoon regarding the terrorist attack.

“We mourn those who have lost their lives or have been injured while fulfilling their religious obligations. We send our prayers and wishes of comfort for the victims and their families,” the statement said. “We stand with the Christchurch Muslim community and our Kiwi friends in their time of mourning and pledge our support.”

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The center encouraged people worldwide to provide donations and support to the families of victims.

MORE: Bridging the divide: Islamic Center celebrates anniversary, continues community outreach efforts

“This type of violence and the hate which motivates it is unacceptable in any country, and people worldwide have a responsibility to stand up and say ‘no,’” the center said in the statement. “No one should fear for their safety when attending their house of worship or when raising awareness about an issue.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Cincinnati said Friday morning that it would be “part of the example that there is more love in this world than hate” by attending prayer services Friday afternoon at the Islamic Association of Cincinnati’s Clifton Mosque.

“Shocked and disgusted by this insidious violence committed against people in their houses of prayer,” the JCRC wrote on its Facebook page. “To our Muslim brothers and sisters, we mourn with you and we stand with you today and every day.”

The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati opened in 1995 on 18 highly visible acres between Interstate 75’s Cincinnati-Dayton Road and Tylersville Road exits. The center has served the local Muslim community by providing a place to worship and learn, as well as serving as a gathering place for families and the community.

It also hosts tours for the community and local school groups.

Over the past five years there have been seven calls to the Islamic Center for threats, with one of them a threat toward an individual and not the center itself, township officials told this news outlet Friday.

In March 2017, West Chester police investigated a bomb threat message left on the center’s answering machine.

In the year prior, there were three reported threats of violence at the center, township officials previously told this news outlet. In one of those, police indicated the call appeared to be made more as a prank by children.The two others were of a type similar to the March 2017 call, but there was no evidence that they were connected in any way.

MORE: Islamic Center in West Chester speaks out against terror attacks

In June 2017, hazardous material crews determined a white substance that was delivered to the center was non-hazardous.

The center regularly hires off-duty West Chester police details to provide added security at the center, and West Chester officers routinely meet with members of the ICGC community, according to township spokeswoman Barb Wilson

The center routinely condemns attacks against citizens of other countries and members of other faiths and stands in solidarity with those affected by them.

The center, in its statement, noted the attack occurred on Friday afternoon when the mosque would have been filled with people who gathered for Friday prayers, just as a suspect attacked Jews in Pittsburgh last October as they worshiped at Tree of Life Congregation synagogue, and the Charleston killer attacked Christians in 2015 as they worshiped at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“These types of attacks are driven by racial, religious, and ethnic hatred and every elected official has a responsibility to denounce them in the strongest possible terms,” the center said. “In the wake of this terrible attack we call upon our regional and national elected officials to commit themselves to opposing hate speech and hate violence in every form, but we equally call on citizens to demonstrate acts of solidarity with their Muslim neighbors, co-workers, and others.”

FAST FACTS: Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati

• Founded in 1995 in West Chester Twp.

• Provides a place to worship, learn and grow spiritually and educationally

• Serves as gathering place for families and the community

• Holds Saturday open houses and schedules weekday tours

• The 99 names of God are written in Arabic script across the walls and balcony of the mosque