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Many faiths, one purpose

Interfaith 9/11 service held at Wayland mosque

Dr. Ghiath Reda, imam at Islamic Center of Boston, said that in Wayland, Muslims have been fortunate to live in a supportive community. Dr. Ghiath Reda, imam at Islamic Center of Boston, said that in Wayland, Muslims have been fortunate to live in a supportive community. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By L. Finch
Globe Correspondent / September 12, 2011

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WAYLAND - In the days following the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, members of the Islamic Center of Boston were nervous.

The 19 hijackers had not only carried out the deadliest attack on American soil, but they had also planted a seed of distrust against American Muslims, members recalled yesterday. A backlash seemed to be growing, bringing with it second glances from strangers and bullying of Muslim children in school.

But when the faithful came to their mosque for prayers on the Friday following the attacks, a group of neighbors were waiting for them at the door - not with accusations and insults, but with flowers.

“They wanted to reassure us,’’ Dr. Ghiath Reda, the imam for the Islamic Center of Boston said yesterday, joining members and representatives of Christian and Jewish communities at the mosque yesterday to reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the attacks. “ ‘We know you and we know what happened, and we don’t want anything bad to happen to you.’ ’’

That sentiment of interdenominational solidarity is needed just as much now as it was 10 years ago, Reda and other religious leaders said at a memorial at the Islamic Center of Boston. More than 100 people of various religious affiliations as well as local civic leaders packed the hall yesterday to commemorate the solemn anniversary.

State Representative Tom Conroy, who represents Wayland, said he was confident that the community could find “common ground as Jews, as Christians, and as Muslims.’’

“I believe that we all need to reflect on that in a way that will heal this country,’’ he said.

In Wayland, Muslims are blessed with an unendingly supportive community, Reda said, while in some areas of the country, they have faced increasingly hateful rhetoric since 9/11.

Reda said the goal now should be to create a world that is a better place than it was in the aftermath of the attacks, with both Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors becoming open and accepting of each other, Reda said.

“I hope we learn lessons,’’ he said. “If we don’t learn and get better, we can’t advance and become a better society.’’

Those gathered at the mosque yesterday remembered in their prayers all the victims of the attacks, but particularly one of their members, Rahma Salie, 28, who was pregnant when she got on American Airlines Flight 11 with her husband, Michael Theodoridis, to travel to California for a friend’s wedding.

The hall, painted warm yellow and orange, softly hummed with the melodic voice of a mosque member reciting from the Koran, the polite laughter at an anecdote in a Christian minister’s sermon, and the ecumenical amens after a rabbi finished reciting a traditional Jewish memorial prayer.

We are all members of the same humanity, Rabbi Neal Gold of Temple Shir Tikva told the room, and it is to our own peril if we do not celebrate our differences.

“In the face of radical hatred, we respond with radical love,’’ Gold said. “To that, we, you and I, say we are keepers of our brothers and sisters.’’

Peace, justice, and compassion are the values members of any faith should carry with them in a post-9/11 world, said the Rev. Bruce Pehrson, calling on Christians to not mistake the Muslim community as the enemy.

“Hate just leads to hate, and vengeance just leads to more vengeance,’’ Pehrson said. “Our gathering makes a statement. It says we reject the narrow visions of race.’’

People of different faiths mingled and chatted after the memorial, seeming more refreshed by the message of interfaith cooperation than somber about the occasion.

Liz and Ray Stevens of Wayland, who are members of the Community United Methodist Church, arrived before the crush of attendees and sat near the middle of the room.

The message of peace, especially peace that bridges religious divides, is indispensable, no matter how much time since the attacks has passed, Liz Stevens said.

“We have nine kids between us,’’ she said. “We really believe in peace. We have to have peace.’’

L. Finch can be reached at lfinch@globe.com.