Choosing faith over fear, unity over extremism in US capital


“We choose faith over fear, unity over extremism,” said a father to his teenage son as hundreds of Jews and Christians gathered outside Washington’s central mosque to show solidarity with American Muslims.

Followers of all three Abrahamic faiths — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — got together in the US capital on Sunday to march from the city’s largest synagogue to its biggest cathedral and then to the most beautiful mosque, stopping at each to spread their “message of love”.

At Washington Hebrew Congregation, Imam Bilal of Masjid Mohammed, northwest Washington, recited the call for prayer.

“Not one of us should be registered because of our faith, nor should we put up with fear-mongers,” said Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig while addressing the rally.

This was an indirect reference to a recent statement by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump that all Muslims in the US should be registered and monitored by US authorities. Other Republican leaders have urged the Obama administration not to accept Syrian refugees.

But Rabbi Lustig rejected the suggestion, saying: “No walls along borders. No obstacles to Syrian refugees.”

At Washington National Cathedral, three Muslim children — Faateha Syed, Jannah Syed and Ridwa Ullah — recited a ‘na’at’.

At the Islamic Centre mosque, Jewish and Christian scholars read verses from the Bible and the Torah.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, head of the Archdiocese of Washington, read from Luke 23:24: “Forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington told the audience, “Love is stronger than hate”.

Rabbi David Saperstein, the US ambassador at large for international religious freedom, read from Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger. For you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The centre’s imam, Dr Abdullah Khouj, read verse 49:13 from the Holy Quran, while welcoming his Jewish and Christian guests: “O mankind, we created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know and honour each other (not that you should despise one another).”

“Standing on tolerance, waiting to change, trying to live out a rule so divine: love your neighbour! Welcome the stranger! Want for the other what you want for yourself! Do no harm if you cannot do good,” prayed Rizwan Jaka of the Adams Islamic centre, Virginia.

“Compassionate God, free us to love,” the congregation responded. “God of all, help us to stand.”

The walk started, on a chilly Decem­ber afternoon, at Washing­ton Hebrew Congregation, proceeded on sidewalks to Washington National Cathedral and ended at the Islamic Centre.

Imams, Rabbis and Cardinals led the rally, which ended with Muslim participants praying inside the central mosque as their Jewish and Christian supporters stood beside them, sending a clear signal that they will not allow anyone to violate the fundamental right of every American: to pray according to their faith.