Gainesville Muslims react to mosque shootings in New Zealand

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -- Residents of North Central Florida woke up to the news of a deadly shooting at two mosques in New Zealand Friday.

In total, 49 people were killed in the shootings in the city of Christchurch, with the alleged shooter in custody. The attacks took place during Friday prayer service at two mosques.

Now, the Muslim community in Gainesville is mourning and hoping for change. TV20 spoke with Muslims at the Islamic Community Center off University Ave. during prayer service Friday night.

"We realized that those people were at Friday prayer," said Babar Ali. "It was just normal people like us going about their lives, and they go to the mosque to do this ritual they do every week and this happens."

In an e-mail, Acting Chief Inspector of Gainesville Police Jorge Campos said GPD has stepped up patrols of worship centers like the Islamic Community Center. Alachua Sheriff's Office confirmed a safety bulletin was sent out to deputies.

"[Terrorism] is not acceptable in any religion, and in any country on the earth," said worshipper Faraj Alotaiby. "We also reaffirm that there is no religion for terrorism."

Worshippers TV20 spoke with affirmed their hope for change and for communities to come together. Some Gainesville residents brought flowers to the Islamic Community Center Friday, also making donations in the process.

The group Islam on Campus at the University of Florida later sent out a statement on Facebook. It read in part:

"We would like to thank all of our friends and campus partners who have reached out to us at this time. In times of darkness like these, your support is truly a light, and we are grateful for your kindness. To all of our friends, we would like to say: if you see something, say something. Report any suspicious activity to the authorities immediately. Do not allow propaganda to dictate your opinions on your Muslim neighbors. Rather, we invite you to get to know your Muslim peers and colleagues.

No one should have to live in fear because of their beliefs. To our members and other Muslims on campus - we will grieve, but we will not let hate win."

The group is scheduled to hold a candlelit vigil on Monday at 7 p.m. in Turlington Plaza at UF.