Peace Primer II: Free PDF Download Now Available!

By Lynn Gottlieb, Rabia Terri Harris, Ken Sehested

It is common today to hear the claim that we are engaged in “a clash of cultures.” The first step in addressing conflict is for all parties to listen to each other. That is the goal of this publication: to allow Christians, Muslims and Jews to listen to each other’s scripture and tradition, particularly to hear what each has to say about seeking justice, pursuing peace and working for reconciliation.

Click here to download a pdf of the Peace Primer

The World Is Not Falling Apart

Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in such peaceful times.

REFUGEES: A Call to Action by the Westchester, Rockland and Hudson Valley Community

MPF is headquartered at the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, in Rockland County, NY


As the tides of refugees from war in the Middle East literally wash ashore in Europe, we are witness to human tragedy of unfathomable proportions. In a world where governments wage wars that result in the displacement of tens of millions of people, we as human beings face a responsibility and a real opportunity to do the right thing. We welcome the tired, the poor the hungry and endangered to our country and community. We cannot be witness and not take action. All around the country, municipalities and local communities are calling for the United States of America to open wide the doors to the refugees, and are ready to welcome refugee families into their communities. We in the Westchester, Rockland and Hudson Valley Community join in the call for action to save and welcome refugees as follows:

  • Ask our Senators and Congresspeople to advocate for the prompt resettlement in the US of a substantial number of refugees;
  • Ask our county legislators to endorse the effort and provide the community support needed;
  • Ask our local municipalities to endorse the effort and coordinate to assist in the hosting, housing and absorption of families;
  • Bring together both community and faith-based groups to provide community support and participate in resettlement efforts;

We make this call based on the firm conviction that all people — regardless of race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or legal status — deserve to live in freedom and safety.

We, the undersigned organizations, commit to advocate energetically for opening our doors to refugees to share the message above broadly. We will invite our constituents and our partners to join us in taking direct action to support refugees who arrive in the lower Hudson Valley.

For further information or to add your organization to this call, please contact Andrew Courtney at 914-5271-8633 or email at with your organization’s name, the contact person, email and phone number.

[List in formation]

Barton Worden, Leader, The Ethical Culture Society of Westchester. White Plains, NY

Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice, Stony Point, NY

Creative Response to Conflict, Rockland County, NY

Connie Hogarth Center For Social Action, Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY

Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt, Rockland County, NY

International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation, Mt. Vernon, NY

Jean Fallon for Maryknoll Sisters, Ossining, NY Jerrahi Mosque, Chestnut Ridge, NY

Jewish Voice for Peace – Westchester Rev. Karen Eiler for the Memorial United Methodist Church, White Plains, NY

Katonah United Methodist Church, Katonah, NY Mental Health Association of Westchester County, Tarrytown, NY

Muslim Peace Fellowship, Stony Point, NY

Pace Community Law Practice, White Plains, NY

Rabbi Scott Weiner, Senior Rabbi, Temple Israel, New Rochelle, NY

Rabbi Tom Weiner, Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains, NY

Rockland for a Just Peace, Nyack, NY

The Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, Stony Point, NY

The Church in the Highlands, White Plains, NY

The Duchesne Center for Religion and Social Justice, Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Nyack, NY

The Immigration Justice Clinic of John Jay Legal Services Inc. at Pace University School of Law, White Plains, NY

WESPAC Foundation, White Plains, NY

Westchester For Change, Susan Van Dolsen Co-Founder, Rye, NY

Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence, White Plains, NY

The History of Ashura – Why We Should Remember

(Originally published on AltMuslim on Novermber 14, 2013)

By Safiyyah Surtee

Writing about Muharram, the day of Ashura and the events of Karbala from a non-sectarian perspective is not simple, but I believe there can be reconciliation.

I grew up in a home where Muharram is a time of celebration, as it marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, as well the hijrah (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) from Makkah to Medina. The 9th/10th/11th Muharram are days for fasting, and in some cases, people even exchange gifts. I was taught that the day of Ashura (10th Muharram) was the day on which the Prophet Musa (as) and his people were saved from the tyranny of Pharoah – a day from the annals of ancient history, which reaches out to us so we may remember and be thankful.

Some accounts relate that the Prophet (saw), upon hearing that the Jews commemorated the day of Ashura for Nabi Musa (as) by fasting, decided to also adopt this practice (differentiating it by adding an extra day of fasting the day before or after Ashura). This willingness of the Prophet (saw) to learn and embrace from people of other faiths (when he found an important commonality) relates closely to what comes next – that we too should show similar willingness, especially when it comes to the narratives of people from within the Muslim umbrella.

Due to what now seems like deliberate communal amnesia, I was already in my late teens when I learned (by accident) that Ashura is also the day in which many Muslims mourn the tragic events at Karbala, when Imam Husayn (ra), the beloved grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) was martyred by the Umayyad ruler Yazid bin Mu’awiyya.

As I reflect back now, with the day of Ashura immanent, it becomes apparent that seeing things in black and white robs us of the deep spiritual lessons, which Ashura can teach us when we open ourselves to multiple possibilities.

I do not wish to recount historical versions of events – history is often written or rewritten from the vantage point of the victors and those in power, but the events at Karbala defy this. On all accounts Imam Husayn and his small group of mostly members of the Ahl-Bayt were brutally killed by people claiming to be leaders of the Muslim Ummah. Arguments abound on who was responsible – was it Yazid or the people he delegated? Did the army take things into their own hands? Or perhaps the Kufans, who betrayed Imam Husayn, were mostly to blame. Even rather absurdly, I’ve even come across one claim that Imam Husayn himself is to blame for acting naively and without heeding the advice of other companions. But I digress …

I do not see mourning or grieving the day of Karbala as contradictory to commemorating the day of Ashura (as considered to be the day the people of Musa (as) were saved). Both Nabi Musa (as) and Imam Husayn (ra) refused to give allegiance to tyrannical rulers, whilst one (Pharoah) considered himself God while the other (Yazid) claimed to be a khalifa (representative) of God. We learn from both Nabi Musa and Imam Husayn, that speaking truth to power is one of the qualities of people of tawhid, who believe that true power belongs to God alone. This is a lesson we are sorely in need of in a world where military oppression, religious misappropriation, dictatorships and monarchies still reign supreme.

We also learned is that when the desire and greed for material wealth and power corrupted the human soul to such an intense degree (when living on that very base level of Nafs al-Ammarah bi su (the self-inciting ego that urges towards to evil), human beings spilled the blessed blood of the progeny of the Prophet (saw), committed the most heinous of crimes under the illusion of safeguarding their leadership and inflated their status to such heights as to claim divinity.

If we ignore the events of Karbala or prefer to forget them, then we do as the killers of Imam Husayn wanted, which was to wipe out the family of the Prophet that posed a threat. Thus their claim to power and authority could remain unchallenged in order for them to continue along the trajectory of moral debauchery, nepotism, corruption and the establishment of baseless monarchies, as is well documented.

If we deny or try to justify the events at Karbala or downplay the awful magnanimity of what occurred, we commit the same terrible treachery of the people of Kufa, who abandoned the Ahl Bayt after giving them allegiance.

There is another option: We could also adopt the spirit and sunnah of Sayyida Zainab (ra), the granddaughter of Nabi Muhammad (saw) and sister of Imam Husayn (ra), who bravely proclaimed in the streets as she was being led to the court of Yazid:

“You have killed those whom the Holy Prophet (saw) held upon his knee when they were children and whose play filled him with joy. Soon you will stand with them before Allah, and they will demand justice. Beware the day of reckoning.”

And when she stood in front of Yazid, she was not afraid to say, “Those who have made you the head of state and burdened the Muslims with your leadership will soon find out what awaits them. The end of all tyrants is agony.”

Throughout her grief-stricken journey back to Madina, wherever she dismounted, she gathered people together and recounted in detail the tragic events at Karbala. She immortalized the sacrifices of the Ahl Bayt and exposed the despotism of their killers.

If you are not ready to mourn the death of the Ahl Bayt at the hands of the ruling Ummayad, can you at least acknowledge that there are some Muslims who feel very deeply, poignantly and painfully, based on their love for the Prophet (saw) and everything and everyone he loved, about the killing of Imam Husayn (ra) and 72 of his followers, as well as the humiliation and inhumane treatment of the women and children who were left behind?

If you fast the day of Ashura to follow the sunnah, perhaps also spare a thought for the thirsty family of the same Muhammad (saw) whose sunnah you are following, who were deprived of water by the cruel army on the field of Karbala. If you observe extraibadah (worship) during Muharram because we know from the Quran that it is a sacred month, then perhaps we can also realize how far from the Quran the Ummayad army were when they mercilessly attacked the small defenseless group of Imam Husayn (ra), going against the strict prohibition of war during Muharram, which itself means “sacred.”

For those who mourn, remember also that the Prophet (saw) rejected all extremities, and that expressing emotion at the way in which some of his family (as) were killed should not make us forgetful of his (saw) impeccable adab and dignity at all times. The dignity of Sayyida Zainab (as) when she was so humiliated by being paraded through the streets uncovered has also been documented and is worthy of imitation.

Also realize that it is not so much mourning of “death” per se, because we know that those who die in the path of Allah are not truly dead, as the Quran teaches us, but are alive in the truest sense. Rather we mourn that the very human being created by Allah in “the best of forms” and “ennobled” can also stoop to the “lowest of the low”, that rulers can be void of Rahmah, that people could stand by and watch the family of the Prophet (saw) be slaughtered.

Professor Edward G. Brown of Cambridge reminds us that “the blood-stained field of Karbala, where the grandson of the Apostle of God fell, at length, tortured by thirst, and surround by the bodies of his murdered kinsmen, has been at any time since then, sufficient to evoke, even in the most lukewarm and the heedless, the deepest emotion, the most frantic grief, and an exaltation of spirit before which pain, danger and death shrink to unconsidered trifles.”

We would be mistaken to believe that between Nabi Musa (as) and Imam Husayn (ra), only Nabi Musa (as) was victorious because he and his people were saved from Pharoah. Imam Husayn and his group were also victorious, if only we begin to see with the inner eye, that amidst the sea of blood that Yazid’s army created at Karbala, what Imam Husayn, Sayyida Zainab and others with them set forth and propelled for all of time, was the parting of the oceans of truth and falsehood.

Safiyyah Surtee is a teaching fellow at the University of Johannesburg in the Department of Religious Studies. Follow her on twitter @safiyyahsurtee.

steadfast witnesses for equity

[Image: Text that reads “O you who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that you deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty . Be conscious of Allah: indeed Allah is aware of what you do.”#Quran, Surah Ma’idah, 8]

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New Peace Actions Page!

We are very excited to introduce our new Peace Actions page (find it under the “Get Involved tab), which we hope will serve as a valuable platform and resource for activists all over the world. You can also submit local nonviolent actions in your area here. Our definition of peace/nonviolent actions is very broad, it can take many forms and address many different issues. Do you know about a teach-in, protest, boycott, petition, campaign, etc? Is it about racial justice, food justice, the prison system, environmental justice, war, healthcare, or something else entirely? Let us know!

Be sure to share this with other activists and concerned individuals in your community wherever you might be. We want this to be as far-reaching as possible so that peace and justice minded folks everywhere can have place to go to find out about opportunities to get involved locally in their communities.

If you have ideas for improving this page and resource, please email us at

N.A.S.A. – Jihad Love Squad (feat. KRS-One) – Tell Us What You Think!

After watching this video and listening to the music, consider these questions and share your thoughts!

Do you think this music video achieved what it set out to achieve? What do you think the artists were trying to say?

Do you think this was an effective way to challenge stereotypes about Muslims, Islam, and jihad?

What did you think about the definition of jihad in the video?

After reading the artist’s statement, does this change how you perceive the video? Does the artist’s background, purpose, etc. affect the message in this video and how it will/has been received?

Rabia Terri Harris Speaking at 2015 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference

Longing for Peace/Exploring the Heart of God

Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, Lake Junaluska, NC

November 12-15, 2015

Advance the work of reconciliation and peace by learning peace making and contemplative practices from the Abrahamic traditions. The 2015 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference leadership includes Dr. Sam Wells, Rabia Terri Harris, Rabbi Or Rose, and Yuval Ron.

The Lake Junaluska Peace Conference is an ongoing response to God’s call to peacemaking and reconciliation. Affirming the community of Abrahamic faiths, the Peace Conference seeks to work in partnership with Christians, Jews, Muslims, and members of other religious traditions to advance the work of reconciliation and peace.

Program Fee:

$120 / person (on or before September 1, 2015);
$145 / person (after September 1, 2015);
$60 / student

Lodging and Meal Packages: (Includes 3 nights lodging; dinner on Thursday through breakfast on Sunday.)

Single Occupancy-$348 / person
Double Occupancy-$219 / person
Student Lodging/Meal Package-$90 / person Double Occupancy at Lambuth Inn

Cancellation Policy: Program cancellations made before October 29, 2015 will receive a full refund minus $15 per person processing fee. Cancellations after October 29, 2015 will forfeit 50% of the total program fee. No refund for cancellations 0 to 1 day before event begins. Lodging cancellations made 15 days prior to the event receive a full refund less $35 per person processing fee. No Refunds for Cancellations made less than 15 days prior to arrival.

Program Questions: Jennifer Martin, Director of Program Ministries, 828.454.6716,

Register for the Program: Anna King, Registrar, 828.454.6682,

Reserve Lodging: Reservations, 800.222.4930,