A few dozen students joined religious leaders Thursday night in the Marvin Center Amphitheatre to reflect on peace and racism in light of the tension caused by Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.
The interfaith prayer service, “Pray for Peace,” followed David Horowitz’s speech on Thursday night. It was the second gathering in a series of Peace Not Prejudice events, which were organized to provide an alternative for the Young America’s Foundation’s Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.
Organizers said last week they wanted a peaceful alternative to the YAF week, but said Thursday that the vigil was not specifically a response to the Horowitz speech.
“A lot of people have taken the Peace Not Prejudice movement to be in protest of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week – it’s not,” said sophomore Tarek al-Hariri, an organizer of the events.
He added, “Peace as an essence is when people are able to listen to each other no matter how hateful or hurtful they may be.”
During the service, religious leaders from the Islamic, Jewish, Episcopalian, Catholic, Pentecostal and Orthodox Christian faiths shared prayers and reflections from their religious traditions that encouraged the consistent underlying values of interreligious brotherhood, acceptance and tolerance. The comments made by the religious leaders were then followed by a brief moment of silence in honor of the occasion.
The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, the Hip-Hop Caucus CEO and Veterans Against the Iraq War activist, discussed the blessings of peacemakers and tolerance around the world.
“This is a serious time for the world,” Yearwood said. “We must unify ourselves to love one another.”
Speaker Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, director of the outreach program at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., said Islam teaches unity with different peoples
“The point the Quran makes is that humankind was created in different lands and tribes in order for us to get to know one another.”
Some of the speakers and audience members who were present at the service said the event was not meant to counter the Islamo-fascism controversy on campus.
“This was not a peace prayer in opposition to Islamo-fascism week,” said Rabbi Harold White, the chief Jewish chaplain at Georgetown, who participated in the event. “Rather, it was a talk for peace.”
Despite this attempted distinction, several students who attended said that the dialogue provided a spiritual counterbalance to the Horowitz speech.
Saifi Inam, a senior and Muslim student, said he enjoyed the speakers in light of the recent events on campus.
“There was the sense that we are waging peace, not war,” Inam said. “It was more of a healing experience.”
Some of the students who protested against Horowitz’s speech on campus were at the dialogue. Catholic sophomore Robert Diecu, who attended the prayer service, was escorted from the Horowitz event because he stood up during the speech raising a banner that protested the claims of Islamo-fascism. He was at the Horowitz speech in response to what he called Horowitz’s “one-way spewing of hate.”
Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm, a GW professor who participated in Peace Not Prejudice’s panel discussion, said the term “Islamo-fascism” is “abhorrent and deliberately political,” stirring up images of past racism in America.
“I used to drink from a whites-only water fountain,” Gnehm said. “When I look back on those days, I am appalled.”
Organizers of the prayer service plan to hold more interreligious events like the “Peace not Prejudice” movement throughout the year and bring more religious leaders to promote a spirit of tolerance on GW’s diverse campus.