About 80-90 people of different religious backgrounds turned out for the Muslims for Peace infer-faith iftar held at the Rutgers School of Social Work in New Brunswick. From Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work, Dean Arlene Hunter, associate dean of student affairs; Dr. Karen Zurlo, professor; and Professor Mark Lamar, director of field placement, were in attendance. Stephen M. Wright, Master of Divinity Candidate, ’17 Princeton Theological Seminary and peace activist Sharleen Leahey showed their support as well. Senator Linda R. Greenstein, who represents New Jersey’s 14th legislative district, gave a speech at the event, thanking her Muslim constituency for their support.
Then, Dr. Ali Chaudry, author of “Islam and Muslims”, former Bernards Townships mayor, and professor at Rutgers University, spoke to those in attendance about the recognition of every individual’s humanity and emphasized that the Muslim community does condemn violence, but that those condemnations are not presented by mainstream media.
Shortly after, a small candlelight vigil was held for the victims of terror and hatred all over the world including, but not limited to, the Orlando shooting, the Paris attacks, the attack on Istanbul’s airport, the 125 shoppers killed in Baghdad, the man shot and stabbed outside a SW Houston mosque, 2 men badly beaten outside a mosque in Brooklyn, 2 men shot walking to a mosque in Minnesota, and those killed in Palestine and Bangladesh. During the vigil, Reverend Robert Moore stressed the importance of recognizing the humanity of all people despite our differences, religious or otherwise.
Afterwards, Sayed Mansoor Rizvi moderated an open discussion/Q&A and Drew University undergraduate Zarina Akbary gave a speech on her experiences growing up with Islamophobia.
Then, after a few more attendants shared their own experiences, Dr. Raza Mir, a professor of Marketing and Management at William Paterson University and physicist M.V. Ramana, who works at the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and the Program on Science and Global Security, spoke a few words on behalf of atheist and their role in inter-faith dialogue.
The event was organized to provide people with an opportunity to have an open and honest discussion about Islamophobia, the current political climate, and Islam as a religion, but by the end of the night it became clear that the greatest overarching theme was that unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Individuals of all different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and histories came together to further the mission for peace, and in doing so they seem to get one step closer to their goal.