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Triangle faith leaders rally around Muslims

Believers of different faiths have a moment of silent prayer at the Islamic Association of Raleigh Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. About 300 people of various faiths attended the interfaith service as leaders of various faiths held a prayer service at the mosque to show solidarity with the Muslim community during these times of unrest and increasingly Islamophobic and racist reactions to terrorism.
Believers of different faiths have a moment of silent prayer at the Islamic Association of Raleigh Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. About 300 people of various faiths attended the interfaith service as leaders of various faiths held a prayer service at the mosque to show solidarity with the Muslim community during these times of unrest and increasingly Islamophobic and racist reactions to terrorism. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Four days after Republican frontrunner Donald Trump proposed a temporary block on all Muslims entering the United States, religious leaders from different faiths gathered at the Islamic Association of Raleigh to condemn his suggestion.

The Friday interfaith call to prayer brought together Christian ministers, a rabbi and imams in a show of support and solidarity with Triangle Muslims. The faith leaders urged others to speak out against what they described as “divisive” and “dangerous” political speech.

“As people of faith, as moral ethical human beings, we cannot remain silent or invisible at the rise of intolerance, prejudice and hostility to our Muslim brothers and sisters here in America any longer,” the Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, said at the midday gathering. “There comes that moment when one must stand up to injustice and say, ‘No more.’

“Donald Trump’s recent remarks on the banning of Muslims coming to the US has brought me and others to that moment. And I am here – and we are here – to say, ‘No more,’” Petty continued.

The crowd of several hundred people who gathered on the unseasonably warm afternoon applauded Petty’s words.

Trump, who has received a wave of criticism from politicians in both parties for his suggested ban, has support among Republicans, according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released Thursday. Forty-two percent of the Republicans surveyed backed a moratorium, according to a report on the poll in The New York Times, and 36 percent opposed such a policy. Fifty-seven percent of all those polled opposed the idea, and 25 percent supported it.

All the religious leaders condemned the violence in Paris and San Bernardino that prompted such remarks among politicians. They described the acts as terrorism that was not acceptable in any faith.

“It is important for us to know that the enemy in this country, and in our world, is not Muslims,” Petty said. “The enemy we face as humanity is radicalization, and radicalization is not limited, my friends, to one faith, one people or one religion.”

The religious leaders spoke about the recent killings at the Planned Parenthood offices in Colorado and the mass shooting in the black church in Charleston, S.C., this summer. They recalled the three Triangle Muslims, known at the mosque as “Our Three Winners” because of their volunteer work and commitment to make the world a better place, who were killed last year in Chapel Hill. The accused killers in those cases are white men, each with connections to North Carolina, they pointed out.

Oliver Mohammed, senior imam at As Salaam Islamic Center in Raleigh, said the terrorists were “comprised of the worst among humanity,” whose criminal acts “perpetrated in the name of religious belief” were a “shameful veil on the true beauty on our faith.”

The Rev. William Barber Jr., head of the state NAACP, eschewed the popular use of the phrase “radicalized Muslims” among the media and others, and noted that there have been nearly 300 mass shootings in the United States this year and some 40,000 incidents of gun violence.

“If we are to fear anything, we need to fear our appetite for violence,” Barber said. “So, let us resist every stereotype and pledge to work that we might be one nation under God, indivisible ... with liberty and justice for all.”

Barber acknowledged the rise of the Islamic State as “a credible threat.”

But in a country where 7 million to 10 million Muslims live and work in our schools, governments and military, Barber said, politicians should look within themselves to see whether their words have helped fuel that rise of a terrorist culture.

“We must not allow candidates of either party to condemn the murders in San Bernardino without acknowledging their own role in this nation’s violence with their words and their language,” he said.

Rabbi Eric Solomon of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh said “language matters.”

“Language hurts, and language can lead to violence,” Solomon said while noting the immigration path that his grandparents took to this country and some of the similar anti-Semitic language they experienced in the early 1900s.

Love and unity were the words that the faith leaders chose to underscore Friday.

“We choose compassion over hate, we choose understanding over division, and we choose community over going our separate ways,” Mohamed AbuTaleb, imam of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, said at the close of the event.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1

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