Ocasio-Cortez Belittles Prayer After New Zealand Mass Shooting

March 15, 2019 Updated: March 15, 2019

Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) questioned the “thoughts and prayers” commonly used to offer comfort to victims in her response to New Zeland’s mass shooting where 49 people were killed.

Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to a mosque, entering it, and shooting randomly at people inside. Health authorities said an additional 48 people were being treated for gunshot wounds, including young children.

The alleged mastermind of the shooting described himself as an “eco-fascist” in his writings. “I was a communist, then an anarchist and finally a libertarian before becoming an eco-fascist,” he wrote, according to reports of his manifesto.

Ocasio-Cortez was quick to belittle the power of prayer in her initial reaction to the shooting—the worst ever mass killing in New Zealand and the worst mass shooting since 1990.

“At 1st I thought of saying, ‘Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.’ But I couldn’t say ‘imagine’ Because of Charleston. Pittsburgh. Sutherland Springs.” she wrote on Twitter. “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?”

In a follow-up post in her thread, Ocasio-Cortez attempted to clarify her comments, stating that the “Thoughts and prayers” she mentioned was a reference to the National Rifle Association (NRA) use of the phrase to “deflect conversation” from policy change. She also clarified that it was not a jab at New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who she had linked to in her post.

The congresswoman’s response drew condemnation from some who called her comments “insensitive” in the aftermath of the brutal shooting.

“This is incredibly insensitive to my Muslim brothers and sisters who were slain in cold blood while they were literally praying because they want to be closer to their creator and they want to become better people,” the Washington Examiner’s Siraj Hashmi wrote.

“If one of your first 1000 thoughts after a horrific mass shooting is to go dunk on a person, a religious belief or an organization on Twitter, you should delete your account,” author Tim Young said on Twiter.

The mass shooting raised New Zeland’s security threat level to the highest Ardern said, adding that “this can now only be described as a terrorist attack.”

Police said three people were in custody including one man in his late 20s who had been charged with murder. He will appear in court on March 16.

“Maybe hold off attacking the beliefs of others in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, especially when it was people of faith who suffered?” said writer Susan Wright.

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch also responded to the congresswoman’s claims of the NRA’s usage of “thoughts and prayers.”

“Pretty sure thoughts and prayers isn’t anyone’s phrase, and prayer especially (which you mocked earlier after what happened in a house of prayer?) is a real action, a petition to, a conversation with, God—in this case, to request protection, comfort for those suffering,” Loesch wrote.

One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman was white, blond, and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. The man burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.

President Donald Trump called the shooting a “horrible massacre” and said the United States “stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”

Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Bowen on Twitter: @BowenXiao3
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