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Gaithersburg mosque holds interfaith event following New Zealand attacks

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 3/17/2019 Liz Palka
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The Islamic Center of Maryland leaders said they knew they needed to do something when they realized how many in their community had questions and fears following the mosque attacks in New Zealand on Friday. 

Sunday's interfaith event, which was overflowing with attendees, came together quickly with the help of the Muslim community in Montgomery County and other interfaith partners.

RELATED: Mourners await burials as New Zealand mosque massacre death toll rises to 50

"We can build bridges together and fight against this philosophy of hate and race-based violence," said Nadeem Ahmad, the Board of Trustees Chairmanfor the Islamic Center of Maryland.

Several members of the Montgomery County Council attended the event, as well as County Executive Marc Elrich.

“In our county, our most precious values are rooted in inclusion, tolerance and love for each other," said Council President Nancy Navarro. "I am here to affirm we will not be complacent.”

For many, showing up to the mosque on Sunday was personal, even for those who are not Muslim.

RELATED: 'Love always wins': New Zealanders reach out to Muslims in wake of mass shooting

"The world we’re trying to build is a world where people love each other regardless of their religion," said Rabbi Charles Arian of Kehilat Shalom  in Montgomery Village.

Arian said his synagogue has a partnership with the Islamic Center of Germantown. When a gunman attacked a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 and killed 11 people, Arian said the first person he heard from was his Muslim counterpart.

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"Of course, I received many messages of condolences from different religious communities," Arian explained. "But, the first message was from the imam, Imam Najjar at the mosque in Germantown.

Event organizers said there were many messages they wanted to get across at Sunday's event. One message was directed specifically at anyone listening too closely to today's divisive political rhetoric.

RELATED: 'There is hate and bigotry but also hope' | Local mosques respond to hatred of New Zealand mass shooting with love

"These things are not happening in a vacuum, there are reasons for [them.] The dog whistle politics, and sidestepping the issues of race and hate-based violence, or fear mongering, or hate mongering. Or we’re talking about fear of refugees and immigrants taking over and so on and so forth, which have no basis whatsoever," said Nadeem Ahmad. 

Ahmad said the goal now must be to determine how to move forward from here and remove the hate that is so present in today's society.

RELATED: Man who stood up to mosque gunman probably saved lives

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