Dozens of people gathered Sunday in Hallandale Beach’s Baitul Naseer Mosque to condemn violence and pray for peace.
“Before you throw a stone, knock at the door,” said Khalid Minhas, who helped organize an interfaith service Sunday in remembrance of the 14 people killed earlier this month in San Bernardino, California, by a Muslim husband and wife. “Islam is a religion of peace. We invite everyone in to find out more about us.”
The service comes as anti-Muslim rhetoric continues to spread following the California shootings and the terrorist attacks — one inspired by and one claimed by the Islamic State — in Paris. A recent statement by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for a complete ban of Muslims in the country only punctuated the problem faced by practicing Muslims, Minhas said.
“It’s adding fuel to the fire,” he said. “It’s easy to spread hate; it’s harder to spread love.”
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Minhas said hearing that the couple who opened fire at the California holiday party were from Pakistan — where he was born and raised — and were Muslim “hit really hard.”
“Not only was it a loss of innocent life,” Minhas said. “But it also is an abuse of our faith.”
He said holding a vigil was a way to bring everyone together and denounce the acts of a small “misguided” group.
The service, organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Miami, included Rabbi Barry Silver, from congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach, the Rev. Andreas M. Thode from Living Faith Lutheran Church, and the Rev. Harold E. Thompson Jr. from Miami Beach Community Church.
The message from all the faith leaders was similar: Everyone needs to stand shoulder to shoulder and support each other.
“We will not stand idly by,” Silver said.
Added Thode: “What happened today is of tremendous value because we all stood together in friendship.”