A mouse that hides in a hole will come out until it hears a noise, but then it runs back in.
“We don’t want to be like that mouse,” Yousuf Memon, the Imam of Masjid Nur Islamic Community of Southwest Florida told worshipers in Charlotte Harbor Friday.
That was just hours after news broke of an attack on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 49 people.
“We have had an incident, unfortunately,” Memon said during the early afternoon service as women and men listened from their divided sides of the mosque.
He explained that communities can fear other communities, and told people at the mosque to remain vigilant and follow their protocols.
He didn’t speak in detail about the attacks across the globe or elaborate on local protocols, but he explained some people don’t know much about Muslims.
“Many people have just one Muslim friend,” he said, adding “that person becomes an example of the entire religion.”
And that can be an important role, Memon told the mosque.
“If one person said something good... You have the blessings of helping someone find the right path.”
His talk on the issue was brief, before returning to the topic of Ramadan preparations.
“We are in the spotlight,” Memon said.
Outside the mosque, the parking lot was largely full and there was no immediate presence of marked police cars. Security cameras appeared to be prominently affixed to the outside of the building.
A woman at the mosque, who asked not to be identified out of concern for risk to her security, said the Muslim community was “very scared and worried and very sad and heartbroken” after hearing of the shooting attacks.
“We can’t believe this person would do this kind of act when they’re in prayer,” she said.
She said the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office had been asked and agreed to provide extra security at prayers Friday.
After the service, she noted a couple stopped by just to say they were there for the Muslim community. A few members of other churches in the community had also called in the morning to say the same. She said she loves Port Charlotte and has never experienced any kind of discrimination here.
“I wear the hijab, and no one would threaten me or my family or anybody,” she said. “I am thankful for that, that we have a very good type of community. But with this, you don’t know if someone else that’s seen it on TV would want to do a copycat thing. We just pray to God that all churches, mosques and synagogues be protected from people that have so much hate and want to hurt people.”
The mosque frequently holds interfaith activities, she said, which they hope helps to educate the public.
“We like to invite people to our community to our mosque so they can ask any question they want,” she said. “We welcome anyone to our mosque. A lot of people do come and say can they just watch our Friday prayer to observe what we do? We welcome that because we want people to understand Islam is a peaceful religion, a loving religion.”