NEW BRUNSWICK – About 650 plus people attended the 9th Annual Prophet Muhammad Day to hear speeches from intellectuals and artists about the example the Messenger of Allah set for Islam’s followers.
The event took place at the Cook College Campus Student Center at Rutgers University, providing a fitting opportunity for local-and out-of-state – Muslims, and others to get together for an afternoon that served to increase one’s knowledge and spirit without getting too pedantic.
One of the Muslims for Peace event organizer, said the Prophet’s demeanor exemplifies the true meaning behind Islam, which he described as a peaceful religion. He added it was not necessary to assume the authority of God, whom he described as all-knowing. Renowned speakers talked about the values of Prophet Muhammad before hundreds of attendees Sunday afternoon, March 29.
They said much still needs to be done to relieve the physical and sociological struggles many Muslims experience that stem from Islamophobia, and frequent one-dimensional portrayals of Islam by the media as a violent and extremist religion. While some had mentioned the growing instability in the Middle East, the latest one being in Yemen between Shiite Houthis and Sunni-majority nations, as well as the ongoing scourge of ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Libya, the speakers focused more on the qualities of mercy and compassion as a way to create unity among Muslims and non-Muslims.
The tendency for some nations, governments and disenfranchised people to focus more on retribution than humanity, they said, has lead to rampant violence and intolerance over the years against many Muslims. One of the speakers estimated some 1.2 million civilians have died in the Iraq War since it started in March 2003. On other fronts, violence has taken place against Muslim college students in North Carolina, and a woman who was brutalized outside a mosque in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
Imam Zaid Shakir of Oakland, Calif., a co-founder of the recently accredited Zatuna College in Berkeley, Calif., an all-Muslim college, praised President Barack “Hussein” Obama for not further fomenting the violence and hatred sparked by the Iraq War, which he described as “botched.”
Shakir said Muslims should love one another unconditionally by removing the “sectartain blinders.” When one Muslim is hurting, all Muslims suffer, he said.
“If love is not unconditional, it’s not love,” he said. “It’s a bastardized servant of someone’s agenda.”
The best way to end violence and discrimination is through education, Shakir said.
“Knowledge is a servant of mercy,” he said. “Where is the mercy to the suffering and oppressed? All lives should matter. All lives should be precious.”
The fight goes on for having justice in this world, he said, and people must rally literally and figuratively to spread the message of peace, just like Prophet Muhammad did among warring tribes in Medina.
“We have to work for peace. We have to work for justice. We have to work for mercy.”
Another speaker, Hassanain Rajabali, said Muslims have an obligation to represent God on a moral front in this life. He described Prophet Muhummad as “greatest human being (who) walked this earth.”
“It’s not about material acquisitions…or beauty and strength,” he said.
He pointed out the double standards that exist when it comes to the international community responding to help suffering people. For example, Rajabali said some 1 million people were massacred in Rwanda during the genocide in the mid-1990s, but not much help was provided by the world community. Yet, the killings of a relatively small number of people following a shooting at the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo had world leaders standing in solidarity, he said. The shooting was sparked by a cartoon made of the Holy Prophet that appeared in the financially-strapped publication.
Rajabali also mentioned the demonizing way Islam is portrayed by the media, especially when compared to another religion. “Muslim terrorists” is a term commonly used by the media when the Quran is cited by some people to justify the violent actions. However, when Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh committed murder in the early 1990s, and was said to be reading the Bible before the horrific act, Rajabli pointed out the media didn’t describe him as a Christian terrorist.
He said the best way to counter Islamophobia is not through violence. Rather, it is gaining wisdom and engaging in “jihad-al Akbar,” which is marked by “good argumentation and not ad hominems,” he said.
The Rev. L.L. DuBreuilis of the Faith United Church of Christ in Union said taking even the smallest of steps can go a long way in developing relationships with other people. It can help end the “benign ignorance” that’s marked by complacency and lack of action.
She described the hundreds of audience members gathered for Prophet Muhammad Day as “my cousins” with whom she shares a common ancestor.
DuBreuilis said it is possible to find “delightful differences and celebrating the unity of our faiths.”
“If we let things pass, we’re letting hatred win,” she said. “I will not be part of fostering ignorance and hatred.”
She said she supports forming relationships that lead to justice and liberty, akin to being a “starfish thrower.”
“If we save one person, we have saved the world,” she said. “Find a way to raise your voice in the name of faith to speak out.”
In addition to the speeches, three longtime members of Muslims For Peace received awards for their work with the organization. State Sen. Sam Thompson, of Old Bridge, presented the awards. The 2015 MFP Award Recipients were:
*Dr Tasneem Shamim, who received the Interfaith Award;
*Dr. Syed Ehtisham Abidi and Dr. Asad Sadiq, both of whom received awards for “Lifetime of Community Service.”
“It’s incumbent up on to emulate Prophet Muhammad and Ahle Baith,” Sadiq said. “We came here to shape the future.”
“I’m really humbled,” Abidi said. “Thank you for bestowing this honor.”
Shamim remarked upon receiving her award: “May Allah bless all of us.”