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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 9:10 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Local Muslims, Faith Community Call for Unity, Decry Violence

Downtown Santa Barbara gathering held in wake of massacre by extremists in San Bernardino

Imam Yama Niazi of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, speaking at an inter-faith gathering in De La Guerra Plaza in Santa Barbara Monday night, asserted that ‘Islam has never been a religion of hate and violence.’
Imam Yama Niazi of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, speaking at an inter-faith gathering in De La Guerra Plaza in Santa Barbara Monday night, asserted that ‘Islam has never been a religion of hate and violence.’ (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“Not in our name” could be heard echoing down State Street on Monday night, as Imam Yama Niazi and several hundred supporters marched through downtown Santa Barbara, decrying recent violence committed in the name of Islam.

Congregants and leaders from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and other faith communities also joined the gathering to support Niazi and other Muslims.  

Speakers came from a myriad of different religious traditions.

A candlelight vigil also was held in honor of the 14 people who were killed in San Bernardino when extremists Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook — who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State — gunned down people at a social services holiday party.

Monday's event was led by the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara and members of the local interfaith community, who declared emphatically that the Muslim community does not stand behind such acts of violence.

The group met at the Santa Barbara Courthouse and walked through downtown, eventually meeting at De La Guerra Plaza.

Aida Aminzai leads those gathered in the plaza in a moment of silence for those killed in San Bernardino. Click to view larger
Aida Aminzai leads those gathered in the plaza in a moment of silence for those killed in San Bernardino. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Niazi, who is also founder of the Blessed Tree Foundation and religious director at the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, said he’s grown up in Santa Barbara and that the community is supportive of religious diversity.

Niazi spoke earlier this month at an Islamic Society of Santa Barbara gathering after the San Bernardino shootings. A video of his talk can be seen here.

“Islam has never been a religion of hate and violence,” he told the crowd Monday.

Those who carry out violence in the name of Islam “should be called murderers,” he said. “Not Islamic fundamentalists.”

Niazi stated that after Robert Lewis Dear Jr. allegedly killed three people by opening fire inside a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs, people didn’t focus on his professed Christianity the way that Islam has been scrutinized after the San Bernardino killings.

“We know Christianity has nothing to do with that,” he said, adding that a peaceful Islam “is the Islam of 99.9 percent of people in the world.”

Niazi’s wife, Aida Aminzai, was also present, and led the crowd in a moment of silence for those lost in San Bernardino.

Two rabbis were in attendance Monday night, one of whom was Steve Cohen of Congregation B’Nai B’rith, who embraced Niazi before taking the podium.

Cohen spoke of “howling voices” that demand fear as a way of life.

“But that has never been the choice God desires,” he said.

The Rev. Mark Richardson of the First Methodist Church of Santa Barbara said that many in the faith community feel a need to bring a counter voice to that language of fear.

The Rev. Mark Asman of Trinity Episcopal Church also spoke.

“I have never been as proud of our community as I am tonight,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Those gathered in De La Guerra Plaza listen to Pastor David Moore speak Monday. Click to view larger
Those gathered in De La Guerra Plaza listen to Pastor David Moore speak Monday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

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