By Maylan L. Studart
Religious leaders from different faiths are pulling together this Thursday night to call for peace and unity after the terrorist attack on a New Zealand mosque sent shockwaves around the world earlier this month.
The Better Together interfaith solidarity event March 28 is being hosted by the Hillside Islamic Center and sponsored by Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, the Lake Success Jewish Center, the Islamic Center of Long Island and several other religious organizations.
Imam Ibad Wali of the Hillside Islamic Center said he was compelled to bring the community together after the latest act of terrorism on his community sent all religious groups reeling. He said he received much support from rabbis in the area and they thought to show the world that despite their differences, they are all part of a shared humanity.
“We don’t put our religion on trial because someone claims that they’re acting on behalf of G-d,” said Imam Ibad. “Terror has no fate, hatred has no face.”
A terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15 left 50 people dead. The gunman attacked Muslims when they were at their most vulnerable: during the holiest day of the week, Friday.
Several politicians refrained from calling it a terrorist attack and a Queensland, New Zealand senator said the attack was Muslims’ own fault due to “growing fear within our community, both in Australia and New Zealand, of the increasing Muslim presence.” President Donald Trump condemned the shooting but also stopped short of calling it a terrorist attack.
Rabbi Michael Klayman, president of the Great Neck Clergy Association and senior rabbi of Lake Success Jewish Center, has been sponsoring interfaith events for years. His latest project is moderating a panel of different faith groups to expand dialogue on local television channel PATV.
“I’ve always been concerned with interfaith matters because my tradition believes that every violation of faith is a violation on my faith,” said Klayman.
Several religious communities believe these terrorist attacks around the world are a matter for all faiths because of the affront on religion and religious liberty.
Ibad said he received an outpouring of support from members of the local Jewish community, who remember his outreach during last year’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
“I take it very, very personally,” said Klayman. “Also, when the synagogue in Pittsburgh was attacked, the Muslim community stepped up in solidarity with the Jewish community. As they did for us, I stand with them.”
The imam said Rabbi Todd Chizner of Temple of Judea in Manhasset and Rabbi Meir Feldman of Temple Beth-El in Great Neck, who are also attending the event, sent him their condolences and solidarity when the Christchurch shootings occurred.
Mohammed Abkoush of New Hyde Park said he felt sadness as he watched the news of the Christchurch attack.
“The world we live in is not safe anymore,” Abkoush said. But despite this, he said he will “absolutely not” change anything about his routine, although his mosque, the Hillside Islamic Center, will be upgrading security.
Ibad said he was seeking permits from the town to construct additional exits and will soon be hiring an armed guard to protect a sole entrance. He has also been encouraging congregants with a background in security to join the Nassau County Police Department’s auxiliary unit to help protect the community and wants to have a congregant carry a concealed weapon.
The imam wants people to remember that there are extremists in every religion and every ideology and Muslims shouldn’t be singled out. “Why is it that we constantly hear about Islamic extremism but don’t hear about any other forms of extremism?”
He said his job as an imam is to find the balance and promote it, which is the peaceful mainstream.
The Better Together interfaith solidarity event will be held at the at 300 Hillside Ave. in New Hyde Park at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28.