Faiths Urged to Work Together to End All Types of Terrorism
By Michelle Brunetti
Margate: Muslims, Jews and Christians gathered Sunday afternoon at Beth El Synagogue to encourage each other to stand up to the forces of violence and hatred that resulted in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“In the Koran ... God says he created us from a male and a female ... to make one human family,” said Turiya Raheem, of Atlantic City, as she fought back tears. Raheem is Muslim. “God did not create us to hate or despise one another, but to love one another.”
The crowd of about 120 people at the One Voice, One People, One Community event burst into applause as Raheem finished.
Rev. Dawn Fortune, of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Galloway Township, said she struggled to see the humanity in the hijackers who killed 2,996 people that day, but she believes it is important to see God even in terrorists.
“Nobody commits an act of terrorism for kicks,” she said, calling it an act of marginalized, exploited people who have turned their religious beliefs in a hateful direction. “It is incubated in isolation and under a view of the world as a hostile place,” by people who believe they are victims of the imperialism of more powerful countries.
If we want to see peace in the world, we have to have it in our hearts, she said.
Rabbi David Weiss, of Beth Israel in Northfield, said he was horrified to see Nazi supporters marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month to protest removing a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“But how long have African Americans lived in fear of police in their own communities?” he said. “How long have our Hispanic brothers and sisters lived in the shadows without protection (for fear of deportation), and our Muslim Americans felt fear of anti-Muslim prejudice?”
He urged Americans to take their cue from how people responded in Hurricane Harvey in Texas, where “people of all faiths were strangers helping strangers.”
And Rev. Willie D. Francois of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville said there are all kinds of terrorism, and while Sunday’s service was to memorialize those lost in the Sept. 11 attacks, we can’t overlook the “acceptable, normalized terrorism” of poverty, mass incarceration and underfunding of schools and communities of people of color.
“You can’t say you are against terrorism if the white incarceration rate is 10 times lower than the black incarceration rate in this state,” he said, and you aren’t working to change that.
Organizer and Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, of the Masjid Muhammad mosque in Atlantic City, stressed unity of all people.
“There was a tremendous feeling of unity and togetherness, of brotherhood and sisterhood and companionship” immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, Shabazz said. “Unfortunately as we moved forward, we lost that focus.”
Now Shabazz said he is asking people to get back to the spirit of cooperation and love.
“We must reject the actors and speech we see that’s ugly and tears us apart,” said Shabazz.
The interfaith program was sponsored by many groups, including the American Legion and Auxilliary, Post 61; the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia/SNJ Region; Atlantic City NAACP; Atlantic County Coalition for Safe Community; Bridges of Faith; Fellowship of Churches of South Jersey; and the Jewish Community Relations Council. – The Press of Atlantic City