San Jose: Muslims, immigrant-rights activists condemn Egypt attacks

Sharon Noguchi | San Jose Mercury News | Link to Article

SAN JOSE — In Palm Sunday demonstrations of support for immigrant rights, South Bay religious activists declared sympathy and support for Egyptian Coptic Christians victimized by the Islamic State’s bombings — and support for American Muslims who now fear more repercussions on themselves.

Preceding a Palm Sunday procession and Mass, speakers at a small rally downtown condemned the attacks that killed several dozen worshipers and injured many more at morning services in two Egyptian cities — an escalation of violence that ISIS had promised against Egyptian Christians.

“We shake our heads in dismay and and in disgust. This does not represent us, not as human beings, not as Muslims, not as believers,” said Imam Alauddin El-Bakri of Santa Clara, a member of the Islamic Network Group.

 

El-Bakri noted that for centuries Muslims and Christians have lived in peace, as they did when he was growing up in Jordan. “I believe that faith takes you to a higher standard of values and morals and manners; it does not take you to a lower standard,” he said. About the bombings, he said, “Not anything can condone or support such acts.”

El-Bakri then joined Father Jon Pedigo of the Diocese of San Jose in leading a four-mile Palm Sunday procession from downtown to East San Jose, intended to show support for immigrants.

Pedigo had hurriedly amended Sunday’s agenda to include voices from the Muslim community.

Egyptian-American Maha Elgenaidi offered a brief, emotional cry in response to the attacks.

“To ISIS,” she said, her voice breaking, “You are nothing but but cowards and criminals. You are pure evil. May you be condemned to hell.” She called on Muslims in the region who are able to to take up arms against the Islamic State.

Elgenaidi worried that the attacks halfway around the world could prompt the federal government to create a Muslim registry, something President Trump promised during his campaign.

The Palm Sunday event to support immigrant rights was organized by People Acting in Community Together and began with morning prayer and scripture readings at San Jose State University’s Newman Center.

Juanita Velasco of Morgan Hill was among two dozen intrepid supporters who, bearing a cross and palm fronds, marched 1½ hours to a Mass and a re-enactment of the Passion of Jesus at Most Holy Trinity Church in East San Jose. There the church became the first to declare itself part of a “solidarity network” in support of immigrants.

Velasco said she came out in response to events not only in her community, but across the nation and world — the poison gas attacks in Syria, Sunday’s bombings, as well as the growing ranks of homeless locally and the widespread fear of deportation gripping local families. “It’s just heartbreaking,” she said. “I feel so helpless.”

She and others have taken “rapid response training” on how to help undocumented immigrants.

Fear is widespread among immigrants, who worry about possible deportation splitting up parents and children, said marcher Gloria Quiroz, a member of PACT. “I’m here in solidarity,” she said. “Yes, we have borders, but no family should be divided.”

“I stand with you in solidarity for our brothers and sisters who are immigrants who are being under so much pressure and anxiety,” El-Bakri said.

For Muslims, he said, support from leaders of other faiths makes a difference.

“It gives us a feeling of hope — that the picture is not all dark,” he said. “Once there is reassurance that there is goodness and light, you become energized and active.

“Hatred,” he said, “not only destroys others, but it destroys the person harboring it.”