By Fatima Kermali
On April 17, Muslims4Peace held an interfaith dialogue from the onset of the month of Ramadan regarding its observation during current times. Though it is the second time the month of Ramadan has occurred during Covid 19 restrictions, it has opened the door of reflection and discussion among faith groups and organizations.
The program begin with the recitation of the Holy Quran and a welcoming statement by Umar Sheikh, an Attorney at Offit Kurman and a board member for Muslims4peace. After offering warm greetings to everyone, he gave a brief introduction about Muslim4Peace as being a non-profit from New Jersey established approximately two decades ago as an outreach organization to spread the message of humanity that everyone are brothers of faith.
Thereafter, A moment of silence was taken for Imam Sohaib Sultan who passed away the day before. He was a beloved leader in New Jersey.
The program then resumed with Sayyed Moustafa Qazwini, the Imam of the Islamic Education Center of Orange County who shared his knowledge stating that when humanity finds itself at crosswords, two things are needed. First, to keep steadfast in one’s faith, taking refuge in God and secondly, to stay grounded by connecting with community members from one’s own community and others. He stressed the importance of being one family and not to disunite based on any other factor and to help people.
Thereafter, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib spoke about the importance of representing Islam by action. She mentioned that Muslims after taking care of their homes, have a duty to take care of the communities that they live in. It is during this period that we can demonstrate support for each other; hence she said It is not a matter of when one’s own community is attacked, but rather when everyone else’s community is being attacked that we should all speak up.
The following speaker was Jared M. Maples the Director of Homeland Security who encouraged everyone to also have a voice and emphasized that it is hope and love that will allow us to get through everything. Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Governor of New Jersey expressed her gratitude for all that the Muslim community has done and continues to do even more so during the month of Ramadan. She stated by coming together we have come thus far in the pandemic and will be able to come out of the pandemic as well. Subsequently, Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef, the Council of Imams in New Jersey took the time to express his gratitude for the friendship he had with Imam Sohaib Sultan and stated that in this month we should reflect on the relationship we have and remember the virtues of appreciation, patience, selflessness sympathy and respect as well as extending generosity and love to each other.
Next, Rabbi Joel N Abraham from the Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains spoke about coming together and moving forward. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman then took the opportunity to send a message of goodwill to the Muslim community.
Fr. Timothy Graff the Archdiocese of Newark and Director of Social Concerns Office spoke soon after relating a message from Saint Francis about hope. Dr Hasnain Walji the Executive Director of United Global Initiative discussed about finding a new normal by finding empathy for others. Thereafter, Rabbi Lee Weissman a Jewish Educator sent a poignant message that by humanity being at crossroads, it provoked everyone towards cooperation. He also pointed out that like the month of Ramadan, things are not always instant but take time to achieve and so we have to be patient.
The Mayor of Borough of Prospect Park, Mohamed T. Khairullah, challenged others to reflect on the biasness and hate that still exist in the nation. Navdeep Kaur Tucker Esq from the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund summed many of the speeches with one guiding principle which is to go from and towards love.
Thereafter, Rev Bob Moore – Executive Director of the Princeton, NJ-based Coalition for Peace Action spoke mostly about peacemaking stating that it is a proactive endeavor that requires solidarity and justice among ourselves.
Bhaveen R. Jani, Esq. President of SABA-NJ, talked about being diverse but still the same and spoke about tolerance. Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqi Author of “Islam, Muslims and Media.” (SoundVision) mentioned about God consciousness and remarked that it cannot be achieved unless connected with fellow human beings. Fr. Dennis Berry, S.T. Shrine of St. Joseph soon after demonstrated that, “God’s deepest desire is for us to become one.” by relating religious historical incidents. Afterwards, Dr Aslam Abdullah, the Director of Islam City poignantly mentioned that no other time has different religious groups come together during this period in America; therefore, we must seize this opportunity that this secular country has given us.
The last speaker, Father Eugene Field, Pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation talked so emphatically about the willingness of everyone to come together to learn and discuss regardless of religious affiliation and afflictions that have occurred in the past. The program ended with notes of gratitude from Professor Raza Mir to all organizations that have sponsored the virtual iftar event.