By Andre Kopacki and Kylee Denesha
Muslim speakers gathered Saturday afternoon in Ware, Massachusetts, to talk about their perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis, religious tolerance, and the global political economy.
Organized by the Agape Community as part of their annual Saint Francis Day events, this year’s theme was “Listening to Muslim Voices in an Election Year.”
“I would like everyone to take a moment and ask themselves what comes to their mind when they hear the phrase, 'I’m Syrian,'" said Noura Talamat, a Mount Holyoke student from Syria. Talamat fled Syria at a time of revolution in 2013, moving from a war zone to quiet New England.
Despite no longer living close to a battlefield, Talamat said that she struggles with prejudice. She mentioned an experience going to Staples to print out posters for the event; she said an employee tried to send her away after realizing the subject matter of the posters: spreading awareness of the conflict in Syria.
“It’s sad that people are separating humans. We are all the same. We could all experience the same experiences in different situations,” said Talamat.
“God is commanding us to repel evil with good,” said Kashif Syed, an immigrant from Pakistan who spoke about the emphasis on mercy in the Muslim faith.
Syed went on to say that the news often wrongly portrays Muslims, frequently depicting them as a warring and aggressive religion.
“There are people like Moses, there are people like Jesus, there were so many prophets, these were people of peace, [and] so we have to follow such people,” he said.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Hadidi, a physician born in Mosul, Iraq, now lives in Boston and tries to find meaning in his life by treating children around the world that suffer from war-related injuries.
“The war is very traumatic, I felt so angry, I felt so depressed by it… but when I started volunteering I found hope, I found wonderful families, I found wonderful friends in Agape, and I will keep doing so,” said Al-Hadidi.
Dr. Hisham Moharram, agricultural researcher, founder of Good Tree Farm, and second generation Muslim from Egypt, summed up the talks by relating the problems that were discussed with the global political economy.
He said that each country is run by a group of individuals that wish to preserve their wealth at the expense of others.
“It’s always a group of people that are politically connected… they are part of the system that runs the society as it is with all its inbuilt injustices,” said Moharram, “[But] we are actually the legs of the table that they’re all sitting at… all we need to do is stand up.”
“I feel that it is the effort to change what is wrong that gets us outside, into life again, regardless whether we achieve the result we want and change the injustice or not, it’s the effort to try that gives us hope to keep on living with hope…” he said.
Featured image courtesy of Paki Wieland.