BY BARBARA PALMER
Citing passages of peace from the Koran, a Muslim religious leader on Friday called on people of faith and people of conscience to use the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a catalyst for finding a way to work together to make this country a better place.
"The terrorist attacks go against the teaching of any religion or any decent human values. This tragedy has to be a catalyst for us to bring the real meaning of Islam," said Hisham Abdallah, who spoke at an open Muslim prayer service sponsored by the Islamic Society of Stanford University and the Office of Religious Life. Abdallah is a medical research director in Palo Alto who regularly speaks at Muslim services on campus.
The half-hour service drew about 350 students, staff, faculty and community residents who gathered in the courtyard of Old Union. Muslims and others knelt on rugs and tarps spread on the ground and visitors sat in folding chairs or stood during the service. Posters describing Islamic principles were displayed in a corner of the courtyard, near where a palm-leaf-topped sukkah had been constructed by the campus Jewish community. Each year, members of the Jewish community celebrate the Festival of Booths by eating, sleeping and studying in the temporary outdoor structure for eight days.
About 350 students, staff, faculty and community residents gathered in the courtyard of Old Union for Friday's prayer service. "The terrorist attacks go against the teaching of any religion or any decent human values. This tragedy has to be a catalyst for us to bring the real meaning of Islam," said Hisham Abdallah, a medical research director in Palo Alto who was invited to speak.
At times Abdallah spoke directly to the approximately 100 Muslims at the service, urging them not to feel ashamed because the suspected terrorists have Muslim-sounding names. "We should not feel guilt for that as Muslims. As humans we should feel guilt, because some people have gone to such a low level of criminal behavior. As Muslims we can only associate ourselves with these people who committed these crimes as our Christian brothers and sisters associate themselves with Timothy McVeigh."
Abdallah advised the assembled Muslims to study Islam from its pure sources like the Koran as well as from the vast majority of scholars who understand Islam as a religion of peace and justice, not a religion of revenge and aggression.
"He is a true believer who propagates peace and propagates justice," Abdallah said. The Islamic religious tradition includes stories of persons sent to paradise because they showed mercy to a thirsty dog or a suffering bird, and people who met the punishment of God for locking up a cat that starved to death, he said.
"Extremism has no place in our religion. We have to educate ourselves as Muslims and then, of course, we have to teach others," Abdallah said.
In the Bay Area, the Muslim community is largely an immigrant one, Abdallah said. "We know it is normal for immigrants to tend to be a little isolated because of language and culture barriers. It's natural for the second and third generation to be much less isolated," he said. But, "we really don't have time to wait for another generation. We have to go out and spend the energy to reach out to your brothers and sisters in this country."
In welcoming participants to the service, Provost John Etchemendy lamented that electronic hate mail had been sent to the campus Islamic community. The hate mail, believed to have originated off campus, was painful for the entire community, he said. "We are all wounded by such intolerance and ignorance."
The tragic events and crimes committed on Sept. 11 brought out the best in people in this country, Abdallah said, from firefighters and policemen who sacrificed their lives trying to save others to the non-Muslims who are knocking on the doors of their Muslim neighbors to offer support.
Abdallah drew applause from the crowd when he spoke of the 300 women of all nationalities, most wearing scarves similar to the khimar worn by traditional Muslim women, who assembled in Santa Clara last Thursday to show support to the Muslim community.
The women were defending the right of Muslim women to go about wearing their scarves, he said. Their message was: "We are with you. Do not be afraid. You are part of us and you have every right to practice your religion in this country," he said.
Liz Throne, who is enrolled in the clinical pastoral education program at the School of Medicine, came with two other program participants to "support the community," she said. She knows "a little bit" about Islam, she said.
Mary Morgan, the widow of Dr. Benjamin Spock, the author and peace activist, attended the service wearing a fringed white headscarf. Morgan had learned how to participate in the prayer service rituals the day before from a Muslim friend and knelt on the ground with members of the Muslim community.
want to show my respect for all the people on the other side of the
world," she said.
Stanford Report, October 10, 2001