Jumu'ah (also known as Friday Prayer) at the Spokane Islamic Center felt and looked a bit different on Friday, in light of the mass shooting in New Zealand.
The Spokane Valley Police Department briefly stationed a patrol car by the mosque during Friday Prayer. Mamdouh Elaarag, a board member at the center, said the mosque has "a good relationship" with local law enforcement "to make sure we all keep an eye out."
"The authorities do not know of any threat, but we still have people that said, 'You still need to provide some security for us,''" Elaarag said.
A local militia member, Jeffrey Stankiewicz of Light Foot Militia, also patrolled outside in support.
"I thought it'd be a Christian thing to do to stand outside here while they're praying," Stankiewicz, a Christian, said.
"I know that after shootings at churches or synagogues, you have a lot of people that will line up, volunteering to do security - someone to just be outside to stand watch. But if it's a mosque and Muslims are killed, you don't hear anything. Crickets," he said.
(This was not Stankiewicz's first time at the mosque. He said he's visited several times before, purely based off questions he had about Islam. He said mosque members regularly welcome him with open arms and allow him to bring his Bible to prayer services: "If I brought a Quran into a Christian church, I'd probably receive a lot more push back then I receive here," he said.)
Elaarag said others have reached out to volunteer as additional security, but said he trusts local law enforcement to provide proper protection.
However, Elaarag emphasized that most of the messages he's received from Mosque attendees do not center around fear, but support.
"We've been getting a lot of support from the community, which is amazing. I've been in Spokane since 1986 and I've always felt welcomed here," Elaarag, who moved from the Gaza Strip in the 80s, said.
"When we are united, when we learn from each other, we are stronger. But when we start dividing, start spreading hatred, start spreading fear, then this is when stuff like this happens and it's very unfortunate," he said.
At least 49 people were killed at two mosques in New Zealand during Friday Prayer. Authorities are still investigating, but said the terror attack was by an immigrant-hating white supremacist.
Multiple Muslims at the Spokane Islamic Center, including Elaarag, emphasized the need to unify and come together as a community.
"I think we need to go back to the basis that we are all created as human beings - from one God that created all of us and we're all created equal," Elaarag said.
Although the terror attack in New Zealand still leaves Elaarag speechless and shocked, he hopes the tragedy brings more locals to visit the mosque and learn more about Islam, its culture, and, most importantly, its similarities with other religions.
"Come visit the mosque. Have one friend that's Muslim, or try to know somebody that's Muslim... Know somebody that's not your religion, know somebody that's not your race, know somebody that's not your color: this is what it's all about. It's what bring us together," he said.
Mamdouh Elaarag, a Spokane resident for more than 30 years, said the terror attack in New Zealand left him speechless. He said Spokane has been a welcoming community, and hopes the tragedy pushes more to put differences aside and stand together: pic.twitter.com/EM5pmR9trG— Kevin Kim (@KHQkev) March 16, 2019