HOUSTON - People across the globe are shaken and saddened after more than four dozen people were killed in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques.
The Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization -- held a news conference Friday to condemn the attacks and urge more security in Muslim communities.
“We mourn the heartbreaking killings of men, women and children gathered for prayer in their houses of worship and urge leaders in our nation and worldwide to speak out forcefully against the growing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate that appears to have motivated these white supremacist terrorists,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “In the wake of this tragedy, we urge mosques, Islamic schools and other community institutions in the United States and around the world to take stepped-up security precautions, particularly during times of communal prayer."
Many political officials -- including several in Houston have also shared their condolences and frustrations about what is being called a terrorist attack.
Among those are Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
Both Turner and Gonzalez said the shooting was “senseless” and “horrific” and said the city is taking extra steps to protect its mosques.
Turner shared a tweet saying, “The city of Houston will take necessary steps to protect those worshiping at mosques in our community, and we denounce (the) hate of Muslims or anyone else.”
Gonzalez supported Turner’s comments, saying, “Places of worship should be places where all can congregate without fear. Out of an abundance of caution, we’re providing extra patrols around mosques.”
The Houston Police Department also shared a tweet saying: "While we don't believe the mass shooting in New Zealand has a Houston nexus, HPD has initiated directed patrols to area mosques and ordered officers to make direct contact with mosque staff. We will continue working to identify any and all threats, and take action as needed."
During Friday's news conference, Sohail Syed, of Islamic Society of Greater Houston, along with Turner and Gonzalez, denounced any kind of terrorism in the city of Houston.
"We are here to denounce the terrorism, the hatred on every level and every front," Syed said.
"We are all in this together. It doesn't matter when a heinous act is committed, whether it's in this city or it's in New Zealand. If it's heinous against one, it's heinous against us all," Turner said.
"I don't know of any, any type of religious literature, that talk about the Koran, the Tora or the Bible, that talks about let's go into a place of worship and kill people and then let's just go ahead and show it to the world to terrorize people," Gonzalez said.
Authorities said the shooting suspect left a 74-page manifesto in which he claimed to be an Australian racist who supports U.S. President Donald Trump and sees him as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."
At least 49 people were killed in the attacks.
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