Street gangs and motorcycle clubs across New Zealand offered to protect the nation's mosques during Friday prayers, but at least one Muslim leader suggests the groups come inside and pray instead.
A gunman's rampage at two Kiwi mosques during Jummah – or Friday prayers – last week left 50 people dead and raised concerns about security for Jummah this week.
Less than 2 percent of New Zealand's 5 million people are Muslim. Thousands of New Zealanders, however, are expected to join in the prayers Friday in solidarity. Leaders of the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, King Cobras – and even Hells Angels – have said they will stand sentry at many of the mosques.
The Mongrel Mob has dozens of chapters across the country. In the Waikato region, local Muslim Association president Asad Mohsin told the New Zealand Herald that Waikato Mongrel Mob leader Sonny Fatu offering his organization's protection at Jamia Masjid Mosque in Hamilton during Jummah.
Mohsin said members of his mosque do not fear an attack similar to the carnage in Christchurch a week ago.
"There are no fears, and we are not scared," he said. "They don't have to stand outside the mosque, they can come inside, right behind where the sermon is given."
The shooting rocked the nation, and dozens of wounded remain hospitalized. Funerals have been taking place all week. New Zealand's prime minister announced Thursday that she is banning all assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and military-style semi-automatic rifles.
Mosin said he expects so many supporters for Friday prayers that some will need to worship in a nearby park. Fatu told Stuff he was told some mosque members remain fearful of gathering together. He pledged that his group will "peacefully" secure the mosque's perimeter so that community members feel at ease.
"The question was posed whether we could be apart of the safety net for them to allow them to pray in peace without fear," Fatu said. "Of course we would do that. ... We will support and assist our Muslim brothers and sisters for however long they need us."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hells Angels, street gangs vow to defend mosques as New Zealand braces for Friday prayers