By ZEINAB NAJM
Local organizations, schools and religious leaders mourned and condemned the killing of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh with a vigil, press conference and statements Nov. 1.
Robert Bowers, 46, was charged with 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Bowers allegedly walked into the synagogue on Oct. 27 during worship services with a riffle and began shooting at people inside. According to the complaint, he told officers “I just want to kill Jews,” but the investigation remains ongoing.
On Nov. 1, the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights held a press conference where religious and community leaders from all faiths gathered to address the synagogue shooting.
Islamic House of Wisdom Imam Mohammad Elahi said the conference of condolences was held to reject all levels of hatred, racism, antisemitism, terrorism and violence. He also said those who died in the shooting were victims of hate.
“As a Muslim community we are with you, we feel your pain and we ask the Lord to bless, give strength to cope with your loss,” he said. “After this tragedy, the Muslim community express our support for our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith with our voices, blood donation, money, time and mosque resources.”
The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn sent out a press release stating it strongly condemns the shooting at the synagogue.
“A house of worship is a sacred place of refuge and peace and should never be a place where people coming together to pray must fear for their safety or lives,” the press release read. “An attack on any church, synagogue, temple or mosque is an attack on us all. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and all people who embrace peace and together we send the message that hate has no place in our country or anywhere in the world.
A statement regarding the shooting was also released by the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn Heights.
“This unfathomable crime should be condemned by all people of faith and conscience,” the statement read. “United, we send a strong message that no such crime will be tolerated by any individual. Synagogues, churches, mosques and all places of worship are sacred grounds and their sanctities should be preserved.
On Oct. 30, University of Michigan-Dearborn students held a candlelight vigil on campus for the 11 victims who lost their life in Pittsburgh, and also for the two people killed at a Kroger in Jeffersontown, Ky.
The names of all 13 victims were read aloud and a moment of silence was held as candles were lit during the vigil for peace. University of Michigan has been collaborating with Hillel International to offer support to Jewish students, from the Pittsburgh area and beyond, according a university the press release.
“Make no mistake, violence and ideologies driven by hatred, racism, bigotry, and racial, religious and ethnic supremacy, have no place at UM-Dearborn or society in general and are contrary to the standards of our campus community,” University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said in a statement. “We reject these pernicious perspectives not only because they are offensive, but because they promote doctrine based on false premises and untruths.
“I am proud that UM-Dearborn is distinguished as an inclusive, welcoming and nurturing community where we are vested in each other’s success. We must redouble our efforts to serve as the shining beacon of all that is good and just in America.”
The university is offering students and faculty or staff with assistance following the shooting through counseling services by calling 313-593-5430 and 734-936-8660 respectively.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)