Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET on March 18, 2019.
NEW YORK CITY—The prayer space at the Islamic Center at New York University is like any other college conference room: big windows, tall ceilings, retro carpeting. But when it’s transformed for Friday prayers, called jummah, there’s a certain familiarity to it too: rows of tape showing worshippers where to sit, a line of chairs dividing women from men, people sitting cross-legged and chatting. This prayer space is similar to the two mosques, thousands of miles away in New Zealand, where 50 worshippers were killed and untold others were injured by a gunman on Friday.
For Mohammed Hojaij, a junior at NYU who serves on the board of the Muslim Students Association, that’s what was most sickening as he watched the video of the attack that was allegedly posted by the shooter: “Looking at the carpet, the design, the greeting at the door,” seeing how similar it was to the mosque he grew up attending in Dearborn, Michigan, “it was almost a part of me,” he said. “I felt it.”
To the group of young Muslims who showed up for prayers on Friday, the deadly shooting in Christchurch and the ugly ideology that apparently motivated it do not feel far away. They see similar versions of white supremacy and anti-Muslim rhetoric all around them in America. Many of them are too young to remember 9/11, or were barely even born when it happened; their formative moment is happening now, in the shadow of ascendant white nationalism. Young Muslims are scared and grieving over what happened in New Zealand. But they’re also ready to get political.