Reaching Out

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aqeela Naqvi

BLACK_AND_WHITE_Aqeela_NaqviAfter the tragic events of September 11, 2001, communities around the nation came together to help each other grieve, to support those who had lost loved ones, and most importantly, to help each other heal. One aspect of this healing was seen in many interfaith communities, as the horrendous acts by terrorists on 9/11 had sent waves of discord through interfaith relations.

In order to keep communities together and keep interfaith relations strong, many communities reached out to centers of different faiths. One such is the Freehold community, where three centers of different faiths: Muslim (Bait-wali-ul-Asr, IZFNA), Catholic (St. Robert Bellarmine Church), and Reform Jewish (Temple Shaari Emeth), came together in 2006 to form a program called Project Understanding. This program, according to the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, was created to “promote positive human relations amongst diverse groups in Monmouth County through interaction with interfaith groups and community service projects, such as the collecting and delivering food for the Open Door Food Pantry, serving meals at the Freehold Area Lunch Program, and collecting and distributing food and clothing to homeless in the Midnight Run Project.” The Midnight Run Project involved youth from three different faiths in collecting clothing, food items, and toiletries at their respective centers, and coming together on a cold, winter night, to load the items on a bus, and distribute them to the less fortunate at midnight in New York City.

DSC05266At the completion of the program, the youth were awarded with certificates of appreciation, presented by the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission. The program is now inactive, but memories of the positive effect it had on creating relationships based on understanding and friendship between youth of different faiths calls for more programs of its kind. By focusing on the youth, programs like these will allow for the future leaders of the world to build the foundation of their interfaith understanding today, instead of waiting for tomorrow, so that in the years to come, acceptance and understanding between the communities can continue to grow, and ties of friendship will continue to be passed down for generations to come, Insha’Allah.

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Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui honored with Human Relations Award

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

DrMuzammilSiddiqui-002ORANGE COUNTY, CA–Distinguished Imam Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui was honored with the the Community Leader Award by the Orange County Human Relations on its 40th anniversary.

On our 40th anniversary, OC Human Relations takes great pride in honoring these extraordinary people,” says C. William Wood, chair of the OC Human Relations Commission.  “These are Orange County’s unsung heroes, the people who dedicate tremendous amounts of their own time with no expectation of reward or recognition to make the county a better place for all people to live, work and do business.  At a time in our nation’s history when so many communities are polarized it’s a privilege to highlight the efforts of these bridge builders.”

The commission published an overview of Dr. Siddiqui’s long listing of contributions: “Dr. Siddiqi has served 30 years as the Imam of the first and largest Mosque in Orange County. Despite the hate and vandalism the mosque has too often faced, Dr. Siddiqi has always reacted with compassion. He brings a moderate, forgiving, open and embracing approach to his efforts. Dr. Siddiqi co-found the Academy for Judeo, Christian and Islamic Studies in the late 1970’s to build understanding between these three Abrahamic faiths and to emphasize their commonalities, despite the political conflict that at times drives wedges between them.

He has led and organized many interfaith dialogues, spoken at the World Assembly of Churches and participated in many seminars organized by the National Council of Churches and the National Council of Christians and Jews. In September 2001, President Bush invited him to lead a Muslim Prayer at the Interfaith Prayer Service at Washington’s National Cathedral. The Los Angeles Times, in recognizing Dr. Siddiqi as one of the 100 most influential people in California, described him as “…the religious leader of thousands of Southern California Muslims at a time when xenophobia is running high, he has been a leader in driving home the point that Muslims in the U.S. are peace loving.”

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