Hundreds of residents from across the Valley gathered Sunday night at Phoenix’s Patriots Square Park to join what is believed to be the nation’s first Muslim rally against terrorism.
“The killing of innocent people out of revenge, out of hate or out of retribution is against the absolute laws of Islam,” said Zuhdi Jasser, a physician who organized the rally. “Suicide is against the absolute laws of Islam.
“People can justify their actions all day long, but we as Muslims are here to say clearly their actions are against everything we believe.”
Jasser said he was motivated to organize the rally by ongoing claims that moderate Muslims in the United States have not voiced a “groundswell of condemnation” against the terrorist activity that destroyed the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Jasser said the rally was a way for Muslims to reclaim their faith from those who have exploited it for selfish purposes.
“We do need to stop killing in the name of God,” said Shirley Spencer of Phoenix, who attended the rally with her husband, Gene. “It hasn’t gotten us anywhere so far.”
“We’re not working and playing together well,” Gene said. “Cockroaches do better than we do.”
Soul Khalsa, a Sikh minister, told the crowd that terrorists may still inflict damage in the future but “their day is fading.”
“Those people who exploit religion for their own power and greed are a dying breed,” Khalsa said. “They are the dinosaurs of this modern era.”
Gene Spencer listened to the words and was optimistic such rallies could lead to change.
“It’s just a little voice but it’s a voice. It’s a start,” he said. “It’s a little electrode but if it bounces against another, who knows what might happen.”
The majority of the estimated 250 in attendance Sunday night were not Muslim. They were people like Michael Fischer, 18, of Glendale, who wanted to denounce the stereotyping of Muslims; and Grace Clark of Apache Junction, who wanted to promote peace.
“You just feel like you want to do something,” Clark said. “I would like to see the whole world get more together. People who are willing to come together are the only hope we have.”
Azra Hussain, a Muslim from Scottsdale, told the crowd that the Islam religion teaches followers to be patient, kind and helpful, and is “very clear on the sanctity of human life.”
“I am opposed to killing in any form by anyone,” she said. “I know what Islam teaches us and that we should know better.”
Ali Homsi, a Muslim from Tempe, said the actions of terrorists “can only be considered crimes” under Islamic law.
“They hide behind the shields of religion while using God’s words to justify evil,” Homsi said. “This will take all our prayers and good actions to combat. I believe we can make a difference. When someone kills another innocent person, the damage will be to each and every one of us.”