More than a month after a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Nueces Mosque is continuing to take steps to remain a safe place to worship in West Campus.
The March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch was the largest massacre in New Zealand’s history and left 50 people dead. Since then, Nueces Mosque, where a majority of Muslim students at UT attend service, has been trying to balance a welcoming environment with new safety measures.
“Many of our community members showed concerns for their safety,” said Imran Ulla, director of communications and external relations for Nueces Mosque. “We did our best to alleviate concerns by informing the community that we have added security and that there are increased patrols in the area.”
Ulla said in addition to hiring a private security guard and improving their security system, they have set up security cameras across from the property.
“We plan to improve our lighting around the property as well,” Ulla said. “We understand that you never know what can happen. All we can do is our best to take precaution to keep our community members feeling safe.”
Several Austin community members and leaders also stepped in to make sure members of Nueces Mosque feel safe in Austin.
“I read about the tragic events of New Zealand last night and as I woke up this morning, I found my inbox inundated with love and solidarity,” Mohamed-Umer Esmail, Nueces Mosques’ former imam, said in a March 15 Facebook post. “Then as I got to Nueces Mosque, I was inundated with visits from neighboring places of worship, flowers, and gifts.”
Immediately after the shootings, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said the Austin Police Department would increase patrols around local mosques and continue to monitor any potential threats. Shortly after, Mayor Steve Adler visited Nueces Mosque to show support for the community after the shootings.
“UT Police Department was very responsive and assured us they will increase their patrols around the mosque,” Ulla said. “APD also increased their patrols in our area and stationed a police car outside of our mosque. For about a week–two weeks after (the) New Zealand events, we saw the patrols throughout the day.”
Ulla said while the mosque would welcome more help from UTPD and APD, their community is grateful for the security it has already received.
Todd Smith is the assistant chief for APD. Smith said APD has received appreciation from local Muslims for protecting their communities.
“Our officers have continued to have open communication with leaders from the various mosques,” Smith said in an email. “Officers have maintained a visible presence near and outside the mosques.”
Government sophomore Usman Mahmood said he occasionally attends Nueces Mosque. Mahmood said he wants to see police and the City of Austin continue doing whatever it takes to keep local mosques secure.
“It feels safe for the time being, but it is still quite scary to know that an attack could happen to any mosque anywhere, including this one,” Mahmood said. “I’ll be living with that fear for quite a while.”