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Rain pounded the area as hundreds filled the Islamic Center of New Mexico on Tuesday evening to mourn the four local Muslim men whose lives were taken in the past year.
Samia Assed, who organized the event, said the news of an arrest brought some semblance of closure for a community that had been in “a great panic” over the past week.
But she said the arrest of a Muslim man was a “shock.”
“This is a sigh of relief, but at the same time, we’re going to be really cognizant of making sure – moving forward as a Muslim community – that we stay united. … We don’t want to divide between our different sects,” she said.
Assed said that in the coming weeks and months, they would try to bring some healing and resources to the community to address all the needs they have. Assed’s brother, Ahmad Assed, is president of the center in Albuquerque and spoke at a news conference about the arrest earlier in the day.
Those gathered for the prayers included such local leaders as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mayor Tim Keller, and those in the Muslim community, as well as representatives of many other religious groups, Sikhs, Mennonites and Jews among them.
Prayers were recited, and both religious and local leaders spoke to bring solidarity to the community and the families reeling from the deaths.
Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, the brother of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, sat in the front row, staring solemnly forward as those at the podium spoke of his brother and the others killed in recent weeks. When it came his time to speak, he touched on how alone he felt when he learned of his brother’s death. Then he spoke of the outpouring of support that followed from everyone in the community. How it made him feel no longer alone.
“Today, I’m here, I’m thankful – I received love, which I feel,” Hussain said, adding that he believes justice will be served for his brother.
Assed said she knew some of the victims, but she did not know the man arrested in connection with the case, Muhammad Syed. It’s too early, she pointed out, to know the motives behind the crimes, but the questions are still there.
“People are grasping at understanding why … So, the heavy lift is ahead of us,” Assed said. “Evil … will be ousted and the good will come back to this community.”
Salim Ansari, who got up to speak, said he knew Syed and was shocked to hear of the allegations. Ansari said the Syed he knew was humble, nice and had six children who carried those same qualities.
Margarita Mercure, a community activist, said it’s important at a time like this to be there for the Muslim community.
“Sometimes, people can take a blanket or generalized view of an entire community, and it shouldn’t be that way,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Mercure said she knew two of the victims, both by chance encounters, with Mohammad Ahmadi at his Halal market and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain when he was with Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury’s campaign.
She said they both had something in common that struck her.
“You don’t forget people who are genuinely warm and kind,” she said. “Who knew that something this horrific could happen (to both of them). … The world is so small and we are all somehow connected, just a few layers distant.”