Prayer service held to mark terrorist attack

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Muslim and Christian leaders gathered Friday in a show of religious cooperation to hold an interfaith prayer service one year after the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists.

The Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center in Jamaica hosted its third interfaith service since Sept. 11 last year, bringing religious leaders together to promote unity and remember those who died, said Muhsin Alidina, spokesman for the center.

“There is a need for people to look upon their religious leaders to give them a message of hope and God,” Alidina said.

The service, which was attended by about 200 people, featured speeches by the center’s leader, Imam Sheikh Fadhel Al-Salhani; Father James Nunes, chaplain at Jamaica Hospital; and Rev. Edward Davis, of the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans.

A common theme running through the sermons was the prejudice that many Muslim people in the city faced after Sept. 11 and after Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden was blamed for the assault on American soil as the Muslim leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

In some neighborhoods in Queens, particularly Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, Muslims and Sikhs were singled out. In at least three incidents following the Sept. 11 attacks, Sikh men were hit with a baseball bat, a chair, and stabbed because their mode of dress resembled the clothing worn by the Taliban in Afghanistan who had given refuge to bin Laden and his Al Qaeda band.

An Afghan restaurant in Flushing was vandalized.

“Some people try to apply the bad behavior of some Muslims to all of us,” Al-Salhani said. “Some feel that Muslims behave the same way, which is completely wrong. What happened does not represent Islam.”

Nunes called for religious people, no matter what faith, to lead the way in encouraging tolerance.

“Ignorance breeds that kind of fear,” he said. “Ignorance breeds terrorism. As God’s sons and daughters, it is unacceptable. As people of faith we have to challenge that.”

The leaders also spoke about the parallels between the Christian, Jewish and Muslim teachings. Davis pointed to Abraham, the father of the people who would later branch out into the three religions.

“We are all one in God’s eyesight,” he said. “He’s given each one of us something special. Prejudice does not understand how precious we are in the eyesight of God.”

Al-Salhani told the worshipers to leave the judging of the terrorists to the gods of the three religions, based on their similar concepts of Judgment Day.

“We cannot judge these people,” Al-Salhani said. “We cannot judge ourselves. Allah, God, is the only one who can say that a person will go to Heaven or Hell.”

And for those who have been unable to find refuge from the stress and grief of the attacks, God and time could be the solution, Nunes said.

“We have a false sense of understanding that in a year everything should be accomplished, that we should have gotten over it, that we should have completely moved on,” he said. “That idea has to be false. Our journey is going to be a much longer one.”

Faith and the laws of religion can also help promote unity and peace, Al-Salhani said.

“We must act according to what we believe, and that will reduce the conflict between people,” he said.

Davis agreed, adding his prayer that people would approach others with tolerance.

“I pray, my brothers, that we will walk in love, that we will walk in harmony and that we will walk in peace," Davis said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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