Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Change Happens' as Imam Joins Mlk Event

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Change Happens' as Imam Joins Mlk Event

Article excerpt

RIDGEWOOD -- Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of peace, but not one to skirt controversy.

So when the opportunity arose to have an imam from the Muslim faith speak for the first time at the 35th annual Martin Luther King service and march in Ridgewood, the planning committee did not retreat.

"It felt like we were pushing ourselves a little, but in a good way," said the Rev. Canon John Hartnett of St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church, one of some 25 religious groups that gathered for the interfaith celebration of King's life and legacy.

"We don't choose to be controversial; we choose to be inspirational," said Donna Gould, a spokeswoman for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee of Ridgewood and Glen Rock. "Given what's going on, we thought it was a great idea to have a Muslim leader who is also involved in speaking on behalf of the African-American community."

Dalal Kanan, one of the many Muslims in attendance, came from Little Ferry with her husband to hear the imam and be inspired. She said her mosque has been advocating this as a way to show solidarity.

More than 400 packed the Ridgewood United Methodist Church on Monday -- a day many had off from work in honor of the civil rights leader -- for a spiritual program titled "Together in Hope."

The highlight of the morning was the sermon by Imam Zaid Shakir, the co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif., the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States. He accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the U.S. Air Force. A respected writer and lecturer on African-American issues and Islam in the American context, he served as the personal spiritual counselor and imam for the late Muhammad Ali.

Taking the podium after a soulful performance by the Men of Umoja chorus, Shakir addressed an audience that was as diverse as the speakers by tackling the issue of conflict head-on. …

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