Vigil at Nueces Mosque expresses intersectional solidarity

Deenah Kafeel

Speakers echoed sentiments of unity during times of distress at a vigil for Nabra Hassanen and Charleena Lyles held at the Nueces Mosque Friday evening.

A member of the Muslim community in Virginia, Hassanen was killed in what authorities called a case of road rage. On the other coast, Lyles, an African-American pregnant mother of four, was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers responding to her own 911 call after an attempted burglary.

Both incidents sparked nationwide criticism and calls for justice.

Muslim Solidarity ATX, Counter Balance: ATX and the Texas Muslim Students Association organized the vigil to bring the Austin African-American and Muslim communities together.

“The Muslim community is not too far from the African-American community,” said Kristina Brown, co-founder and president of Counter Balance: ATX. “We have the same struggles, and when you’re put in the ‘other’ category, you’re all fighting for the same thing. Unfortunately that’s not always possible because of bigotry and institutionalized racism.”

Attendees lit candles and honored the victims in forms as diverse as the crowd, including song and Quranic recitation. Through it all, one theme prevailed: solidarity in times of polarizing rhetoric.

“We were hoping the community would have a greater understanding of what Muslims go through on the regular,” said Maria Rana, senior psychology major and Vice President of the Texas Muslim Students Association.

After the vigil, attendees talked with and ate beside Muslims who broke their fasts before Khatam Al-Qur’an, a night completing the recitation of the Qur’an for the holy month of Ramadan.

“Our goal was to open up a space for healing and community,” said Zack Shlachter, a member of Muslim Solidarity ATX. “There are many people from different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds breaking bread and getting to know each other.”

The vigil concluded with a moment of silence, as teary-eyed community members stood alongside each other to pray.

“We choose to remember the people that we lost, to remember the way they lived and not the way they died,” Brown said. “It’s a way for us to get out of our silos and understand we are all united.”