Salt Lake interfaith, Khadeeja Mosque host Muslim Voices Against Extremism

Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable participants greet each other after the Muslim Voices Against Extremism presentation. The Interfaith Roundtable hold events throughout the month of February. (Ashley Robinson)

Young children and devoted youth volunteers greeted event attendees with refreshments and brochures as they entered a small reception area and removed their shoes. Atendees ate traditional potato samosas and spicy chickpeas while patiently awaiting the main event.

Residents of Salt Lake City gathered at the Khadeeja Mosque Feb. 7 to learn about the rich faith traditions in Utah as part of the 2015 Interfaith Roundtable season.

Mayor of West Valley City, Ron Bigelow, welcomed the diverse group, extending a feeling of welcome.

Like individuals gravitated together in the beginning, but slowly the invisible borders faded. Strangers approached one another timidly, engaging in small talk about things dear to them — their faith and traditions. Articles of clothing with religious significance were popular conversation starters, and a comfortable chatter filled the small reception area.

Women then walked upstairs, and men into the main hall as the call to prayer sounded through the mosque. Members of other faiths were invited to watch the prayers and then reconvene for the main event — addresses by community leaders.

Representatives from the Greek Orthodox Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jewish faith spoke, as did Mayor Bigelow. All speakers cited Utah as an example of the peace that comes with good community relations.

“You and I have never met anyone that is not important,” said Jim Jardine, chair of the Public Affairs Council for the LDS Church. “Even though I don’t know many of you, I feel as if I am among friends.” Jardine then echoed the challenge of the other speakers to do “even better” about getting to know neighbors and community members.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, a vocal opposer of extremism associated with Islam. He urged the audience to understand that violence associated with religion is misinterpretation of those religions and abuse.

Siddiqi also spoke to dispel the myth that Muslims do not publicly denounce these acts. “Where are the voices?” he asked. “There are many.” Siddiqi has published several statements himself, condemning the atrocities of terrorists who cite Islam, saying, “it’s not Islamic, its Satanic.”

His address was especially poignant, following many public responses to the murder of a Jordanian pilot by terrorists loyal to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Several vigils were held by students at BYU to honor the pilots life and condemn ISIL.

“I think news media distorts the view of the Middle East,” said BYU student Andy Tygard. “There are so many good people that practice Islam, and they should be looked at as the example of what the Middle East is about. Education, listening, and appreciating where people come from and their beliefs will help when conflicts arise.”

The evening was part of a month-long series of events hosted by different faith traditions in the area and is sponsored by the Interfaith Roundtable.

The Roundtable was established prior to the 2002 Olympics, and began as a week-long reflection of worldwide ideologies. Interfaith week continued every February on the anniversary of the Games, and recently lengthened the celebration to an entire month. The next event is an interfaith bus tour on Feb. 24. Visit the Interfaith Roundtable website for more information.

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