Local mosques step up security after New Zealand terror attacks

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CHICAGO — Chicago-area mosques and community centers are stepping up security in the wake of mass shootings that left 49 dead and scores wounded at New Zealand mosques.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said suspects in Friday’s terrorist attacks have “extremist views” that have no place in the country or the world.

While officials said there is no immediate threat in the U.S., local Muslim communities are taking precautions.

The Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove has hired extra security and requested additional police patrols over the next few days. The first prayers Friday were for the dead.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Chicago issued a community alert urging people to be vigilant, especially while attending prayer services. For many, it’s hard not to be afraid.

“What that fear does, is make people question: Is it safe for me to be who I am? To practice my faith?” Sufyan Sohel said.

At the Downtown Islamic Center, leaders from all faiths came together to show their support Friday — noting that acts of violence like those seen in New Zealand can happen to anyone.

“To me,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said, “to see the Muslim community at service this morning — and rabbis and Christians — to be here, that’s a victory.”

Political leaders across the state weighed in Friday, offering condolences and condemning the horrific show of hate in New Zealand.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said, “My heart breaks for the families, for those that were lost.”

“When we have loose talk about feat and hate, as it has to do with Muslim immigrants and people of faith,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said, “that, unfortunately, encourages some that are demented.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “I would like all our brothers and sisters who are Muslim to know this is a city that welcomes them and prays for common humanity.”

The two candidates who will vie for Emanuel’s seat in an April 2 run-off election also spoke out against hate.

“We as a city are standing firmly against anyone who tries to use racist, homophobic, xenophobic language to divide us,” Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot said.

In a statement, candidate Toni Preckwinkle, who is president of the Cook County Board, said: “I stand with the Muslim community. Our places of worship should be sacred and safe.”

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