2016-02-17 / Home

Muslim community program spreads message of tolerance and dialogue

By DAVID PORTNOE Voice Editor


Answering questions at the Muslim American Community Association program at the Weinberg Jewish Community Campus were (from left), Imam Morshad Saami Hossain, MACA; Dr. Rafey Habib, Rutgers University-Camden; and Imam Mufti Niaz, Islamic Center of South Jersey. Answering questions at the Muslim American Community Association program at the Weinberg Jewish Community Campus were (from left), Imam Morshad Saami Hossain, MACA; Dr. Rafey Habib, Rutgers University-Camden; and Imam Mufti Niaz, Islamic Center of South Jersey. Education about Islam from the perspective of South Jersey’s Muslim community was the theme of an evening at the Weinberg Jewish Community Campus on Feb. 8, as the Muslim American Community Association (MACA), also known as the Voorhees Mosque, presented a program on “Extremism, Radicalization and Islam: Why are there so many acts of violence in the name of Islam?”

Stressing the need for education to create “understanding, tolerance and trust,” MACA Imam Morshad Saami Hossain did not shy away from the fact that acts of violence are committed in the name of Islam, but in a detailed presentation, showed how these acts were not consistent with true Islamic faith. The program was presented in cooperation with the Jewish Catholic Muslim Dialogue, the Camden County Board of Freeholders, and the Jewish Community Relations Council, an agency of the Jewish Federation.


At the MACA community forum were (from left), Zahida Rahman, Muslim American Community Association (MACA); Amy Clayman, president, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC); Imam Morshad Saami Hossain, MACA; Imam Mufti Niaz, Islamic Center of South Jersey; Dr. Rafey Habib, Rutgers University-Camden; David Snyder, JCRC executive director; Bilal Alkiyal, trustee, MACA; and Dr. Mumtaz Bodla, MACA. At the MACA community forum were (from left), Zahida Rahman, Muslim American Community Association (MACA); Amy Clayman, president, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC); Imam Morshad Saami Hossain, MACA; Imam Mufti Niaz, Islamic Center of South Jersey; Dr. Rafey Habib, Rutgers University-Camden; David Snyder, JCRC executive director; Bilal Alkiyal, trustee, MACA; and Dr. Mumtaz Bodla, MACA. Hossain started off by showing a video of Muslims in America living their everyday lives with their families, doing jobs as doctors, firefighters, policemen and other occupations, as some of the recent hate-filled rhetoric, including from the current presidential campaign, played in the background.

Contrary to what is often portrayed in the media, Hossain said that the Quran, the foundational text of Islam, promotes compassion and mercy and teaches Muslims to embrace diversity. He said that ISIS is anti-Islamic and contrary to what the Quran states and what Mohammed did.

“The overwhelming majority of the victims of ISIS are Muslims themselves in Syria and Jordan. They are killing millions of innocent people, women, children, and the elderly,” said Hossain. He said that “99% of Muslims are against ISIS and hate them.” Hossain said the cause of the ISIS-led violence is not Islam, but rather anger and rage, with Islam used as the justification.

Hossain said that Muslims should bond with their neighbors and that non-Muslims should not be suspicious and should form coalitions with Muslims. He also encouraged his non-Muslim friends and neighbors to take what is reported about Islam in the media “with a grain of salt.”

In addition to Hossain, the event also featured remarks by Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, who noted that the Board of Freeholders had unanimously passed a resolution condemning anti-Islamic hate speech. “History has shown what happens when we ignore such hate speech,” said Nash, referencing the Holocaust.

JCRC Director David Snyder said that anti-Jewish and anti- Muslim hate crimes make up three-quarters of all religiously-based hate crimes. He told the capacity audience in the JCC Social Hall that the evening was one for gathering as one community to learn from each other.

Congressman Donald Norcross told the audience that people might dress a little differently and visit different venues to pray, but that everyone shares a common immigrant experience.

Following Hossain’s presentation, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions of a panel featuring Hossain, Imam Mufti Niaz of the Islamic Center of South Jersey, and Dr. Rafey Habib, professor, Rutgers University-Camden.

One question focused on anti- Jewish activity on college campuses perpetrated by Muslims. Habib said that the key was education, and that people need to be taught that the Quran is pluralist. Imam Hossain added that there is an ongoing effort to teach Muslims that the Quran says that they should work with Jews and Christians. Imam Niaz, who also serves at Drexel University, said that the God of Islam, Christianity and Judaism is the same God. “The Quran is the furthest thing from anti-Semitic,” he said.

Closing remarks at the program were given by Zahida Rahman, a trustee of the Jewish Catholic Muslim Dialogue of Southern New Jersey and a MACA member. She thanked God for bringing everyone together that evening and expressed the hope that the evening would succeed in building bridges. “At the end of the day, we all share the same goals. We are all brothers and sisters. May God bless all of you.”

Following the program, those in attendance had an opportunity to mingle and enjoy dessert. Asked what he thought of the program, Rabbi Lewis Eron, Lions Gate chaplain and member of the Jewish Catholic Muslim Dialogue, said that he thought it was a very good first step and gave people information about the Muslim community to share with friends and co-workers. He said that the program also introduced the local imams to a broader community. People could see that they are like the rabbis, priests and ministers with whom they are already familiar.

“The evening gathered a lot of people together, informed people about Islam, and cemented the JCRC and our Federation as a gathering place for the community,” said Eron. .

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