PLEASANTVILLE — Imam Bilal Salaam said waking up to news that 49 people were killed during a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques left him utterly shocked Friday morning.
“It’s a tragedy that we don’t want to hear about at a sacred place — a church, a masjid or a synagogue. It’s a reminder of how many sick people there are in the world,” he said.
During Friday afternoon’s services, Salaam asked for the congregation of Masjid Baitul Nasr in Pleasantville, to pray for the victims of the shootings, as well as the global Muslim community.
At least 49 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of worshipers attending Jumu’ah services. The deadliest attack occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch where 41 people were killed. The second shooting occurred approximately 4 miles away at the Linwood Masjid Mosque where seven people were killed. One more person died later at Christchurch Hospital. Authorities also located and disabled two improvised explosive devices found inside a car.
One man was arrested and charged with murder, while two other people are being held in custody. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the attacks “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” describing it as a terrorist attack.
“It should disturb all religious people,” said Salaam, “just to know that the sacredness of holy and community centers is in jeopardy.”
State Police conducted several check-ins with faith-based institutions Friday, as part of ongoing “Target Hardening Depolyments.”
According to an official statement, troopers were sent to various locations statewide as a proactive public safety mission.
Capt. Matthew Hartman of the Pleasantville Police Department said members of their community relations bureau contacted area mosques, including Masjid Baitul Nasr.
In Atlantic City, officers were posted outside each of the city’s two mosques during the Jumu’ah prayer services.
“Once we find out if they need help, (our congregation) will try to assist the victims,” Salaam said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.