Dozens of people from Bakersfield’s local Islamic community gathered for weekly prayers Friday afternoon at the Al-Farooq Islamic Center in East Bakersfield less than 24 hours after a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques left at least 49 dead and many more injured.
Ollie Zachary, president of the Islamic Shoura Council of Bakersfield, said he and members of his community were deeply saddened to learn about the terror attack that took place in New Zealand, but But he made it very clear that he will not give into fear.
Armed guards stood ready outside the East Bakersfield mosque Friday afternoon, ensuring safety for dozens of worshipers gathered for weekly Friday afternoon prayers.
“I was heartbroken to see the carnage of such tragic events,” Zachary said.
He said he has been in touch with local public safety leaders, and offered his gratitude for the support.
“Here in Bakersfield and Kern County, we are very blessed and lucky that we haven’t faced crimes like this. We’re engaged with law enforcement. Today, I received a call or two from the FBI to the police chief, so I’ve been talking to all of them to ensure the safety of our community here.
The Islamic community of Kern County includes more than 10,000 men, women, and children, many of whom worship at one of three mosques in Bakersfield. Zachary sent out an email to members of his community urging them to stand strong.
“We must live our lives,” he said. “We cannot let those people affect us. We will practice our faith the way it is intended to be practiced. We will never be afraid. We cannot let senseless acts stop us from living our life. Because if we stop then they won.”
A spokesman with the Bakersfield Police Department said BPD will gladly offer extra patrols upon request from any community, but he did not elaborate further. Meantime, Zachary said he’s grateful to New Zealand’s leaders for their swift response, and he urged the members of his community to remain vigilant.