December 13, 2015 - 10:04 pm
Leaders from various religions joined the Las Vegas Muslim community on Sunday evening to condemn terrorism and make a statement to those who commit acts of violence in the name of religion: “You will not hijack our faith.”
But they also wanted to send a message to politicians ahead of the GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
“Islam condemns terrorism,” a white poster underneath an American flag read at the Jamia Masjid Mosque. Another poster read, “The one God, the God of Jews, the God of Christians, the God of Muslims.” A third sign read: “Tolerance, freedom, democracy.”
Muslims have to live in fear of the backlash after its religion is once again in the spotlight as it was after the terrorists attacks of 9/11, speakers said.
“I stand with you, not just today, but I stand with you during this historic time in our country when you are the subject of hatred and discrimination,” said the Rev. Bob Stoecking, with the Catholic Center of the Diocese of Las Vegas.
The event was planned in light of recent terrorist attacks, with the most recent one in San Bernardino, Calif., where 14 people were killed. A terrorist attack in Paris last month also left 129 people dead.
The vigil took place at the Jamia Masjid Mosque, and those in attendance nearly filled the 400-person-capacity area.
The gathering culminated with a prayer for the 14 California victims as people in attendance held small candles and the lights in the area were dimmed. The names of the victims were read out loud.
People at the vigil represented various religions such as Sikh, Judaism, Catholic and Buddhism.
Other figures, such as Dan Schiess, with the U.S. attorney’s office, Nevada Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, and several officers with Las Vegas police, were present at the event.
The Muslim community in Las Vegas is estimated to be more than 30,000.
“We reject all violence in the name of religion,” said Dr. Syed Rahman, one of the event organizers.
As many politicians will be in Las Vegas this week for the presidential debate, Rahman hopes they will also pay attention to the message: “not to divide America on the basis of religion.”
“We are also concerned by the language used by politicians,” Dr. Zia Khan, who read a mission statement for the Sunday event. “Today, we call for action by elected politicians. An action for a culture of peace. We are Americans first and foremost.”
In 25 to 30 years from now, the word “terrorist” won’t be used, it will be “Muslim,” said Joel Ferguson, one of the speakers.
Catherine Gregg, with the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, said before going to the event, her family told her, “Please don’t go — this might be a place where something could happen.”
“Fear is real,” she said.
Schiess assured those in attendance that hate crimes won’t go unnoticed.
“We will prosecute hate crimes,” he told the crowd.
Las Vegas religious leaders in January will start a petition, No Violence in the Name of Religion, and the hope is that the petition will circulate from city to city to gain traction, Rahman said.
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