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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Jews, Muslims gather to promote local, global peace at PeaceWalk”

    Rahim Raina, right, founder of the Muslim Jewish PeaceWalk, carries the banner alongside Mohamed El-Sharkawy, a board member on the Council of Islamic Arizona, at the Sixth Annual Muslim-Jewish PeaceWalk yesterday afternoon. Supporters gathered at the Islamic Center of Tucson and marched north on Mountain Avenue to East Fort Lowell Road to the Ner Tamid Synagogue.
    Rahim Raina, right, founder of the Muslim Jewish PeaceWalk, carries the banner alongside Mohamed El-Sharkawy, a board member on the Council of Islamic Arizona, at the Sixth Annual Muslim-Jewish PeaceWalk yesterday afternoon. Supporters gathered at the Islamic Center of Tucson and marched north on Mountain Avenue to East Fort Lowell Road to the Ner Tamid Synagogue.

    As death tolls in the Gaza Strip continued to rise over the weekend, Muslims and Jews in Tucson marched to promote understanding and peace on a local level.

    The Muslim Jewish PeaceWalk has been recognized with proclamations by the governor’s office, the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the mayor’s office and the Human Relations Commission. March 2 was declared as Tucson’s Muslim Jewish PeaceWalk Day.

    Nina Trasoff, a Tucson City Councilwoman said proclamations don’t carry substance but provide a spirit of support and public acknowledgement that helps promote worthy causes.

    “”This always gives me hope in the future,”” Trasoff said. “”It is not just Muslims and Jews here working together for peace, but people of all faiths.””

    The walkers gathered at the Islamic Center of Tucson, 901 E. First St., at 1 p.m., and walked nearly three miles to the Congregation Ner Tamid’s (Water of Life Campus) 3269 N. Mountain Ave.

    “”As elected officials, we need to step up and support events like these and say ‘this is what we need as a community, for our state and for the world,'”” Trasoff said.

    Trasoff has participated in the PeaceWalk since its first year.

    Imam Farid Farooqi welcomed the crowd and recited a Quranic prayer that promoted tolerance and justice on earth. A Jewish prayer with a similar message was also recited and Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of the Congregation Or Chadash blew a traditional Jewish ram’s horn to signify the importance of the event.

    Louchheim said he began participating in Muslim and Jewish interfaith activities after Sept. 11 because of the pressing need for understanding between people of different faiths.

    The PeaceWalk is not just about political issues in the Middle East, but about finding harmony between the two faiths on a local level, he said.

    Each year the start and end points alternate between the Muslim and Jewish houses of worship, said Dina Afek, a Tucson lawyer, Jewish activist and one of the event organizers.

    This year about 200 people participated, she said.

    “”There is a public perception that Jews and Muslims are enemies and we want to dispel that notion,”” Afek said. “”By walking together, we get to know one another and recognize the humanity in one another.””

    Ehab Tamimi, president of the Muslim Student’s Association and a chemical engineering junior, said he thought the PeaceWalk was a good opportunity to dispel stereotypes about Muslims and Jews.

    “”People are often blinded to the efforts of Muslims to promote peace and stability,”” he said. “”When people see Muslims walking alongside Jews it defies those stereotypes and shows that the default setting for any faith or organization is always peace.””

    Ramzi Samara, a Palestinian-Saudi and a pre-business sophomore, said he participated in the PeaceWalk to promote peaceful conflict resolution.

    “”I think more UA students should participate because it’s basically on campus and it shows, on a citizen level, that peace and unity matter,”” he said. “”I mean it’s not gonna stop the fighting right now, but it makes people more aware of the fact that Jews and Muslims desire an end to violence and are willing to work together.””

    For Indonesian transfer student Mohammad Syifa, the PeaceWalk was an opportunity to see diversity and tolerance in America. Syifa said he heard about the walk through his Jewish host family.

    “”Before I came here, I heard a lot about terrorism and America wanting to attack Muslim countries,”” Syifa said. “”But that’s not true and I want to tell my family and friends in Indonesia about this event that the U.S. is good – a good democracy.””

    Other participants took advantage of the gathering to promote their own methods of peaceful conflict resolution.

    Evyn Rubin, a local writer and Jewish activist, circulated fliers for her on-line petition imploring Hamas and Israeli leaders to reach an immediate peaceful resolution to the Gaza conflict.

    “”I’m distressed about the recent escalation in Gaza, so I created this petition and sent it off last week to (Hamas leader) Ismail Haniyeh and (Israeli Prime Minister) Ehud Olmert,”” she said. “”Ever since I sent it the conflict has gotten worse, but I’m still collecting signatures and want to continue to appeal to them both.””

    Hosam Risha, the executive director of the Arizona Chapter Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he hoped government leaders would learn from citizens’ ability to get together for the purpose of building peaceful relations.

    “”If we are going to leave the next generation with anything, let it be causes like this,”” he said. “”We don’t want them to inherit death and destruction but peace and the importance of collaboration.””

    After the walk, the event continued until 7 p.m. at the synagogue, where a vegetarian meal was served and participants exchanged experiences and held prayer services, writing workshops and arts and crafts activities.

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