Mosques across the United States increased security measures for Friday prayers after a gunman shot dead 49 people and wounded more than 40 at two mosques in New Zealand, attacks that many blamed on the demonization of Muslims by the administration of US President Donald Trump.
Police in New York and other cities said they were stepping up patrols at mosques and other places of worship as a precaution, although there was no sign of any specific threat.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim rights group in the United States, said Muslims and other minority groups had faced a surge in bigotry since Trump won the 2016 US presidential election.
CAIR blamed this in part on what it described as “Islamophobic, white supremacist and racist Trump administration policies and appointments.”
Nihad Awad, CAIR’s Executive Director, said Trump has “normalized” Islamophobia.
“In many white supremacists’ attacks on the American-Muslim community, the attackers cite Trump and cite his policies,” Awad said at a news conference on Friday in Washington.
At least one gunman killed 49 people during Friday prayers in New Zealand’s worst ever mass shooting.
The Australian gunman, identified as Brenton Tarrant, broadcast live footage on Facebook of the attack on one mosque in the city of Christchurch, after publishing a “manifesto” in which he called immigrants as “invaders.”
The accused gunman’s manifesto posted online praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
“Today, the terrorist has quoted the most powerful person in the world, President Trump,” Awad said at the news conference. “And I would like to address Mr. Trump: Mr. Trump, your words matter. Your policies matter. They impact the lives of innocent people at home and globally.”
CAIR urged worshippers in the United States and abroad to take “stepped-up security precautions.”
“There’s no such thing as a foolproof plan in a situation like this,” Khalid Siddiq, an official at Atlanta’s Al-Farooq mosque, said. “We just rely and trust in God.”
Trump extended condolences for “the horrible massacre” in what the White House called a “vicious act of hate”.
But experts say the US president’s immigration policies and divisive rhetoric have emboldened far-right groups and white supremacist ideology in the West.