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Seattle Muslim Groups Unite To Pray For Peace
Students at the Islamic School of Seattle (from left) Yasmine Ahmach, 8, Nisma Gabobe, 8, (front, center) Rahma Mohammed, 9, (center, back) and Soondus Junejo, 9, during prayers at the school on Friday, February 24, 2006. Photo by Dan DeLong (February 25, 2006)
By JOHN IWASAKI, P-I REPORTER
Seattle, WN, February 25, 2006 – About 80 Muslims of different sects gathered for prayer and a sermon Friday in Seattle, responding to sectarian violence in Iraq with a call for common worship.
Muslims in Washington, like those in the rest of the world, are predominantly Sunni and generally worship in mosques separate from Shiite Muslims.
But the bombing of one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, followed by attacks on Sunni mosques, has some Seattle-area Muslims searching for unity.
"It's probably the first solidarity prayer in the whole area that I'm aware of," said Jafar "Jeff" Siddiqui, who helped arrange the service at the Islamic School of Seattle, where he is chairman.
He estimated that a quarter of the participants were Shiites, but he couldn't tell for sure, even though he is familiar with many Muslims as a member of the group American Muslims of Puget Sound.
The differences between Muslims in the United States are less than those overseas, Siddiqui said, and one typically doesn't ask another Muslim to which sect he or she belongs. To illustrate his point, Siddiqui said a good friend once told him that he was "the only Shiite I know." Siddiqui is Sunni.
The Sunni-Shiite divide started with a seventh-century dispute over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis want an elected leadership; Shiites believe it should descend from Muhammad.
"The prayers are the same. The Shiites add a few words but don't take anything away from the prayer," Siddiqui said. "It's the same prophets. It's not a faith difference. It's more of leadership difference."
For Imam Al-Amin Latif, who delivered the sermon Friday, the differences are unnecessarily hurting Islam.
"People are overreacting instead of controlling their anger," he said about escalating sectarian violence in Iraq.
If members of the European Union can discuss their differences, "why can't Sunnis sit down with Shiites and dialogue with each other?" asked Latif, president of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.
That seems easier said than done in Iraq, where the golden-domed Askariya shrine lies in rubble. The site contains the remains of two Shiite imams who are considered descendants of Muhammad.
Though Sunnis are the majority in the Muslim world, they are the minority in Iraq. Still, Sunnis held power in the regime of Saddam Hussein, further subjugating Shiites, who have been the oppressed minority for centuries.
With Shiites now dominating the Iraqi government and some Sunnis in opposition, the rivalry has intensified to the edge of civil war.
Latif called on Muslims to model the character of Muhammad, both in response to the sectarian strife and to Danish cartoons of the prophet that sparked violence in parts of the Islamic world.
Muslims get angry about the "sacrilege and slander and mockery" of Muhammad, he said, but they would also feel the same if it were done to Abraham, Moses and Jesus, all of whom they consider prophets. (Though Muslims revere Jesus, they do not regard him as God's son and the savior, as do Christians.)
But by not showing tolerance and patience and countering "disinformation," Muslims are "overreacting and making Muslims look bad," Latif said.
On Thursday, the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil liberties group, began a campaign to educate non-Muslims about Muhammad in response to the Danish cartoons.
The national and local organizations have condemned the violent response to the caricatures in the Muslim world.
Beyond that, the local chapter wants to make "a positive out of a negative," said Yousef Elberkawi, board director of CAIR-Seattle. "There's a lot of misunderstandings on both sides."
His friends in the Middle East are surprised when he tells them about his friends and co-workers in Washington, because they view the United States by its policies, not its citizens. "Seattle is my city, the Seahawks are my team, America is my country. I'm not for terrorism. I'm not for violence."
Two local mosques will hold open houses to help non-Muslims learn about Islam:
12:45 p.m. today and Sunday, Islamic Center of Tacoma, 2010 Bridgeport Way W. Information: 253-565-0314.
10 a.m. March 18, Islamic Center of Eastside, 14700 Main St., Bellevue. Information: 425-746-0398.
P-I reporter John Iwasaki can be reached at 206-448-8096 or email@example.com.
Source: Seattle PI