From Fear to Friendship - Fostering friendships among all Americans
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali: The Islamic Society of East Bay (ISEB) held an interfaith gathering on Sunday, February 28, 2016. The interfaith event drew large crowd from near and far.
The event was co-sponsored by the American Muslim Voice as well as the neighboring St. Paul Fremont United Methodist Church.
As reported by the Mercury News, around 250 people attended the event. The theme of the event was "Hands Around The Mosque" seeking support of all ethnic and faith groups in the current uneasy environment fomented by the Republican hopefuls, particularly Donald Trump. Not surprisingly, the Mercury News published its report about the event with the following headline: In Bay Area, Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric repudiated.
Sharon Noguchi of the Mercury News wrote: " His name was never spoken in two hours of speeches, but Donald Trump's anti-Islamic rhetoric and the Islamophobia it has churned up were roundly repudiated Sunday, as Bay Area civic and religious leaders told Muslim residents and neighbors: You are one of us and you are not alone."
In brief but emphatic and sometimes passionate speeches, about two dozen pastors and rabbis, mayors and activists spoke at Hands Around the Mosque, an interfaith event intended to build understanding, Noguchi added.
Here are few quotations of the speakers as reported by Sharon Noguchi:
"We can smell fascism when it's arising, and it's beginning to arise in the country," said Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the Berkeley-based Jewish Tikkun magazine. "It scares us."
Christians are uniquely challenged to actively build bridges of understanding among religions, said the Rev. Vincent Raj, of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real on the Monterey Peninsula.
The Hebrew Bible commands "remember the stranger with kindness, said Rabbi Neil Penn, of Beyt Tikkun in Berkeley.
"Americans after 9/11 have been quick to condemn, too quick to pass judgment," said Scott Haggarty, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
Abbot Jianshu Shifu of the Zen Center of Sunnyvale, reminded people that there were no good and bad people, just people who do go and bad deeds.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, co-founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, blamed not Trump supporters, but an economic system that is squeezing, disenfranchising and alienating most people. "We need to address the hunger in people for an alternative," he said, and transform the social order.
The program began at around 4:30 pm with the recitation of the Holy Quran by Luqman Zacria from the ISEB Sunday School. Tahzeeb Siddiqui presented translation of the Quranic verses. Sister Nawal Saleh, teacher of the Sunday School, prepared the students for qirat.
After the recitation of the Holy Quran, Abdus Sattar Ghazali, a member of the ISEB Board of Directors and Senior Adviser of the American Muslim Voice, formally welcomed the guests on behalf of the ISEB and AMV.
Maryam Levenberg, LuthfaZecria, Basheer Albasheer, Zena Siddiqui and Bilal Hashmi, students of the Sunday School presented nasheed, traditional Islamic song. Taha Khan, another student of the Sunday School related the history of the nasheed: Residents of Madinah sang to welcome Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) upon his arrival to Madinah after being forced to leave Mecca. The song is over 1400 years old and considered the oldest in the Islamic culture and tradition. Sister Eman Khaddour prepared the students for nasheed presentation.