Philly police step up security at mosques, synagogues after New Zealand massacre

Tim Jimenez
March 15, 2019 - 9:11 am
Flowers and a message left at Finsbury Park Mosque in London, following the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand.

PA Images/Sipa USA

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police officials say they're boosting patrols of mosques and synagogues in the aftermath of Thursday's mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 49 and injured more than 20. 

What happened is chilling to Muslims everywhere, according to Jacob Bender, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. 

He said one of his first thoughts was how close the Christchurch shootings were in time to the shooting in Pittsburgh and how people of faith were under attack. 

READ: Mass shootings at New Zealand mosques kill 49; 1 man charged

"Sadly, this comes on the heels of the Tree of Life massacre and other acts of terror directed at immigrants and people who are perceived as non-white or non-Christian," he said.

"These were attacks meant to instill terror and to make the idea of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, interfaith society seem quaint and out of date."

Bender places the blame on heated anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political rhetoric — even coming from the "highest levels of government."

READ: Pittsburgh community remembers lives lost in synagogue massacre

He says CAIR's Philadelphia office has gotten a lot of calls in the last two years about bullying, vandalism and other anti-Muslim actions. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, "It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack." Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings. One of the suspects was later charged with murder.