By Michael J. ARVIZU
A weeklong offensive in the Gaza Strip has so far killed 185 people.
The now revealed as premeditated murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank while they hitchhiked home from school – one of whom was an American citizen – has sparked continued outrage around the world.
And the death of a Palestinian teenager – burned alive, it is believed, to avenge the death of the three slain teenagers – was also planned in advance, according to international media reports. He was slain while waiting for prayer services to begin.
The holy Islamic month of Ramadan continues to be celebrated by Muslims around the world this week, as tensions in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians continue to mount with no end in sight.
Imam and Islamic community leader Tariq Ansaar Aquil, keynote speaker at this year’s eighth annual Islamic congregation of La Cañada Flintridge Interfaith Ramadan Potluck, feels that if it were possible to export the message of Ramadan to the Middle East and other troubled areas, “we probably would move a lot closer to conciliation and peace.”
The interfaith Ramadan potluck is a prime example of this message, Aquil said. By welcoming people of all faiths to partake in the iftar, one can see that peace among the peoples of the Middle East is possible.
“This evening, we have people who are Muslim, who are Christian, who are Jewish, and they’re sitting down having a meal together,” Aquil said. “No one is fighting, and they’re all here for one reason, and it’s just so that we can support each other and know more about each other.”
The premeditated murder of the four teenagers is “tragic,” Aquil said. “These types of incidents, happening during Ramadan, kind of remind us of why it is so important that we have a time out.”
This time, Aquil said, allows you to “reflect on where you are, where you’re going; reflect on how you handle things; reflect on your attitude toward people and things, and readjust yourself.”
“These tragic events are no respecters of tradition to things like Ramadan,” he said. “It’s unfortunate.”
Amid this violence, he said, the best people can do is be moral examples, and “hope that, when conflict areas look at us, they’re looking at a mirror that is reflecting that this is how you should be.”
If American faithful set the standard for a path to peace, they can “lead the way by example,” said Aquil, and promote alternatives to armed conflict.
He added that overall the conflict in the Middle East is such that neither side will win. In the end families and their children on both sides of the conflict will ultimately pay the price.
The United States, he said, should act as a moral authority in this conflict and lend itself as a facilitator of peace in areas of conflict, if they will accept us.
“This a lose-lose situation,” Aquil said. “And, as quickly as possible, we need to make it a win-win situation.”