Patrick Burnett, the Program Coordinator to Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, covered FFEU’s Season of Twinning “Spread Hummus Not Hate” rally in Washington on THE HUFFINGTON POST!

The Spread Hummus not Hate rally bridges gaping interfaith divides, soothes election season tensions

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Patrick Burnett Program Coordinator to Ambassador Akbar Ahmed

10/27/2016 04:38 pm ET


Click here to see full article with more photos!


The 2016 presidential campaign has left many Americans shaken to their very core. More than half of Americans have reported this election being, at minimum, “a somewhat significant source of stress.” Meanwhile, women who have come forth recounting sexual assaults committed by one of the candidates are now being both insulted and threatened with lawsuits in retaliation. Young Muslims children have even suffered nightmares about one of the candidates taking them and their families away. The tension across America is simply palpable.

The U.S. is experiencing a dark, challenging phase of history, with our pluralist core facing existential threats the likes of which have not been seen in generations. It is amidst these great trials and tribulations though that we as American pluralists must fight harder than ever for the vision of the Founding Fathers.

Channeling this fighting spirit, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC, in conjunction with his partners at the Spread Hummus not Hate tour, convened an interfaith rally on the Quad of American University on October 20, with the goal of inspiring all Americans to fight vigorously for our neighbors of all faiths and stand up against the ear-piercing voices of hatred and bigotry. And while the rally may not have drawn the numbers of a Trump or Clinton rally, its statements about America today may be just as impactful as what is said in an Ohio arena filled to capacity.

The third-annual Spread Hummus not Hate tour, organized by Walter Ruby of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Andra Baylus of the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum, brought together leading members of the Muslim and Jewish communities of Greater Washington in an effort to bridge the divide that has emerged between these two communities globally. The tour made a number of stops around the Washington region, including at the University of Maryland, Farragut Square and a number of synagogues and mosques, spreading its hopeful message far and wide.

While every stop on the tour made a lasting impact on all engaged, organizers celebrated Ahmed’s rally at American University, which I had the privilege of emceeing, as the marquis event of the tour. The rally, combining the tour’s passionate efforts to restore the frayed relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities with an all-American celebration of our diverse religious traditions, became a beckoning call for all wishing to transcend this dark moment in American history. Framed by hummus and a generous donation of fragrant and flavorful Krishna Prasadam from the ISKCON Temple of DC, a Hare Krishna temple in Potomac, MD, the program encouraged attendees to celebrate peace and interfaith harmony through prayer, poetry, song and speeches.

Ahmed opened the program with a call to action for all faiths and cultures to stand up for one another. He remarked, “Today [the prejudice] is against Muslims, but tomorrow it could be anti-Semitism or against African-Americans or even Christians and others.” He called it the slippery slope. Ahmed also emphasized to this American audience the need to understand Islam and stop perceiving it as a violent faith. He educated the non-Muslims in the audience that the Bismillah declares God to be Rahman and Rahim, or merciful and compassionate, and that the Prophet Muhammed famously stated that the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr. Ahmed recounted too the words of the renowned Sufi poet Rumi in emphasizing the Islamic emphasis on interfaith relations – “I go into the Muslim mosque/And the Jewish synagogue/And the Christian church/And I see one altar.”

Immediately following Ahmed’s remarks came the azzan, or call to prayer, and the reading of the Fatiha, or opening verse of the Quran, by Mohamed El-Idrissi of Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, VA and translated by Nadia Hassan of the Young Leaders Institute. Throughout the past year, Muslims have been scapegoated on the basis of their faith incessantly, and yet, here was a senior leader of a top Northern Virginia mosque in his full prayer robes standing on a stage publicly giving the azzan and Fatiha, with a leading Muslim figure in a hijab translating alongside him for the non-Muslims in the audience. This symbolic projection of American Muslim identity reemerged once again when El-Idrissi returned to the stage to sing “Tala’ al Badru ‘Alayna,” or the welcome song to Prophet Mohammed upon his entering Medina. As a non-Muslim, I am deeply inspired by such moments, as they reveal how, despite the heightened tensions towards American Muslims in recent years, there remains a vigor within the American Muslim community to stand up and continue educating their fellow Americans about themselves and their faith.

True to its purpose, the program was rich in moments of Jewish-Muslim unity. Among the opening events was a joint prayer for peace in the Middle East and beyond led by AU Jewish Chaplain Jason Benkendorf, the Executive Director of AU Hillel, and AU Muslim Chaplain Imam Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute. While the prayer was a strong statement in itself, the symbolic pinnacle came when AU students Susan Klau, representing AU Hillel and the Jewish Students Association, and Bakhtawar Mirjat, representing the AU Muslim Students Association, joined each other on stage in a Jewish prayer shawl and a hijab respectively to speak to the need, as Mirjat said, “to stand up for each other” given “the hateful rhetoric against us both on the national stage.” This powerful moment revealed that, even amidst strained relationships between Jewish and Muslim communities on college campuses torn over issues surrounding Israel/Palestine, the foundation for unity between these interlinked faith communities still exists underneath these tension.

Yet, as the ever-visionary Ahmed ensured, this rally was not only about the Jewish and Muslim communities of AU and Washington coming together, but it also served as a call to action to all faith communities to stand up for one another. The chaplain of AU, Rev. Mark Schaefer, a Methodist pastor, gave the opening prayer for the program. As the emcee of the program, I represented the American Catholic community both in planning and in coordinating the ceremonies. Manjula Kumar, a senior Hindu community leader in Greater Washington, spoke of the importance of building bridges through arts and culture. William Aiken, the director of public affairs for Soka Gakkai International-USA, represented the Buddhist community and its perspective on building bridges. Ananda Vrindavan, President of the ISKCON Temple, even led the crowd in a Hare Krishna chant to open the dinner, symbolizing the Vaishnava tradition, a major tradition within Hinduism.

In a program filled with soaring interfaith symbolism, perhaps most inspiring was the energy with which students in the audience took to heart the interfaith cause through the rally. Following the main program, students rushed to join speakers and performers in signing the Religious Freedom Pledge, a document which pledges signatories to “uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment, and violence based on religion or belief.” Students who were instrumental in the organization of the rally reflected as well the strong feelings of hope and inspiration within the audience. Katelyn Lamson, a senior in the AU School of International Service, remarked, “Indeed, it has been a particularly tumultuous year in politics with copious amounts of divisive rhetoric, so it was wonderful to see people set aside their differences for a few hours to stand together against hate. I hope the spirit of the rally will continue.” Anna Brosius, a junior in the AU School of International Service, reflected, “It was a historic moment for the university and the student groups involved, and I hope it will encourage further [bridge-building] activity on campus.”

Lest one view this rally as a kumbaya moment through-and-through, one must also be conscious of the risks taken in putting this rally together in today’s America. Behind the scenes, Ahmed and I frequently discussed the potential for disruptions to the program, whether over the Israel/Palestine conflict or in response to ever-heightening Islamophobia throughout the US. Ahmed and I were even concerned that someone could commit a violent act against the rally proceedings, prompting us to ensure AU Public Safety was on site and on call. In an environment where Muslim women have had their hijabs ripped off in public and terrorist plots against American mosques have been halted, who knew what could happen during such an open display of interfaith unity.

Mindful of such risks, as I watched the audience and the program that sunny Thursday afternoon work to counter the divisive, angry rhetoric that has characterized America throughout 2016, I could not help but think of the angel upon the statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia, which, on a tablet inscribed “Religious Freedom, 1786”, spells out the names Allah, God, Jehovah and Brahma. This statue, one of the ultimate symbols of American pluralism, is a wellspring of interfaith inspiration that now more than ever must be taken to heart and reflected throughout our great nation. The spirit of that angel was shining bright on the campus of American University and in our Nation’s Capital last Thursday, and thanks to this rally, who is to say that spirit cannot spread its wings throughout America once again.



‘VIEWS & NEWS’ Coverage of SOT SPREAD HUMMUS NOT HATE rally at AU University


Interfaith leaders join hands against discrimination, urging pluralism with music, arts and scriptures

A rally of religious leaders, interfaith activists, academics and students at the American University pledged to work toward thwarting religious discrimination and bigotry in accordance with American ideals of pluralism and inclusiveness.

Assembling under the banner of ” Spread Hummus, Not Hate,”narrative, civil society voices represented diversity of population that included Budhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims.

Recitations of scriptures in diverse original languages, rap poetry, music and instrumental performances by Muslims and Jewish students also generated vibes of peace, equality, commonness and coexistence.

“Hatred, bigotry and prejudice is walking a very dangerous path, it is the slippery slope. Today, it is Muslims, tomorrow it is anti-Semitism, anti-African Americanism, anti-Mexican and anti-Catholicism, ” Prof. Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun chair of the Islamic Studies, said.


“It is an unending consequence, therefore, we must say, enough,” added Ahmed, who hosted the rally in cooperation with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum,

The rally at the AU campus was a culmination of daylong odyssey that brought together Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations on a unity visit mosques, synagogues and express the message of tolerance publicly.

The demonstration of unity for tolerance and equal treatment of all citizens came as Americans prepare to vote for November 8 election in the wake of a highly unusual campaign that saw unprecedented rhetoric against immigrant communities including Mexicans and American Muslims.

Activists at the rally said they joined hands for peace in the face of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Walter Ruby, Muslim-Jewish Program Director at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said irrespective of the November 8 election result, Jewish and Muslims leaders would continue to emphasize the message of mutual support against any demonization and discrimination.

He said there may be differences on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute but Jewish and Muslim leaders are vowing oneness in the United States to ensure equal protection of rights for followers of all faiths.

Andra Baylus of the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum stressed that the message of Spread Hummus Not Hate movement is to build friendship and trust.

Catherine Orsborn, of Shoulder to Shoulder spoke about how the organization is fighting anti-Muslim bigotry and said it will take the message to elected leaders to secure their commitment to respect the will of plurality of voices that demand there absolutely be no discrimination against anyone on the basis of their faiths.

Known Muslim leader Imam Ali Siddiqui stressed the message and spirit of togetherness, saying “we are a family.”

Manjula Kumar, former director of the Smithsonian Institution, represented the Hindu community, and particularly appealed to the students to spread the message of the movement that people need harmony, not hate.

A distinctive feature of the event was recitation of the Azan with translation and prayers by followers of faiths for collective well being of all.

American university students at the rally represented the multicultural ambiance of the campus.





Muslim and Jewish New Yorkers will come together at Brotherhood Synagogue (28 Gramercy Park S.) on Sunday October 30 from 10-12 AM to prepare food for hungry seniors, and then will gather at a solidarity event at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza (2nd Ave between 47 and 48 Streets) from 1-3 PM, where they will vow to stand up for each other and to combat Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, no matter the result of the presidential election on November 8.

The day long Solidarity Sunday will conclude back at Brotherhood Synagogue at 7 PM for a Voices of The Sacred concert featuring the Makhelat HaShachar (Shinonome Choir) of Japan. The choir is the centerpiece of the Beit Shalom religious movement in Japan, aka The Japan Christian Friends of Israel.

The Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Sunday series of events #MuslimJewishSolidaritySunday is part of the Season of Twinning, sponsored by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), which between now and the end of 2016 will feature scores of events in more than 20 countries around the world in which Muslims and Jews come together to strengthen ties of communication and cooperation. Among the organizations co-sponsoring Solidarity Sunday in addition to FFEU are the NYC Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, Muslims Against Hunger and Brotherhood Synagogue.

According to FFEU Muslim-Jewish Program Director Walter Ruby, “We are gratified that Muslims and Jews will be gathering on October 30 to package food for seniors in need at Brotherhood Synagogue, and then come together at Dag Hammersjkold Plaza, the site of so many important rallies over the decades on behalf of human freedom and dignity, to declare that we will stand up for each other if either community is victimized by violence or by hateful rhetoric. FFEU is proud to partner with NYCMJSC, which has done so much to build Muslim-Jewish friendship and trust in New York, in co-sponsoring this important solidarity event.”

Zamir Hassan, founder and director of Muslims Against Hunger, commented, “Millions of seniors are at risk of hunger, yet the depth of senior hunger in America is not widely understood because many seniors are too embarrassed to ask for help. That is why Muslims Against Hunger and our partners will be gathering on October 30 at Brotherhood Synagogue to prepare 10,000 healthy and nutritious meal packages for New York area seniors as part of our ongoing campaign to #EndSeniorHungerNow.”

Persons wishing to volunteer to prepare food for the hungry should register and RSVP at

Robert Wolf, a board member at Brotherhood Synagogue, explained that the Voices of the Sacred concert offers a rare opportunity to see one of the world’s best ‘Jewish’ choirs, the Makhelat HaShachar (Shinonome Choir) of Japan.” Wolf noted that the members of the all-volunteer choir come from all over Japan and pay their own way for every tour they undertake.

The regular admission price for the concert is $25, but for those who volunteer for #End SeniorHungerNow, a special price of $10 will be charged.

For more information on Solidarity Sunday events, please contact:

Walter Ruby, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding 917 294 1772

Michelle Koch, New York Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, 646 898-6973

Zamir Hassan, Muslims Against Hunger 917 371-2602

Robert Wolf, Brotherhood Synagogue, 212 216 1159

FFEU 2016 Twinning Kick Off Event Featured in the Washington Jewish Week

‘Spread Hummus Not Hate’ rally emphasizes Jewish-Muslim solidarity

October 21, 2016 By George Altshuler Leave a Comment

Susan Klau, President of American University Jewish Students Association and Bakhtawar Mirjat, the President of AU’s Islam Awareness Coalition, talk to the crowd at the “Spread Hummus Not Hate” rally. Photo by George Altshuler

Organizers of the “Spread Hummus Not Hate” rally at American University were true to their word Thursday and served plastic container after plastic container of hummus as part of an effort to counter what they described as an increase in bigoted rhetoric and hate crimes.

A couple hundred AU students and members of local faith groups attended the rally, which was held Oct. 20 on the central quad of the AU campus.

“Today it’s Muslims, tomorrow it’s anti-Semitism… It’s an unending sequence,” Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University, said during his remarks onstage.

“Therefore you have to say, enough, enough, enough,” he continued. “Here is the red line and we’re not going to allow it to be crossed.”

The rally was also the last stop of an annual bus tour in which 12 members of Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum spent the day handing out hummus and pita at synagogues, mosques, public parks and college campuses to promote tolerance and solidarity.

Walter Ruby, who is the Muslim-Jewish program director at the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and helped to organize the bus tour and rally, said with tension on college campuses between the two groups over the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the AU event was significant. “I hope this will be a harbinger for things to come.”

Sophomore Alana Kessler, who helped organize the event as a member of Hillel, said that it’s important to “build bridges” between the Muslim and Jewish communities on campus.

“This is about knowing that the Islamic community is also a huge part of our family,” she said. “Our two communities will only be stronger if we come together.”

Bakhtawar Mirjat, a sophomore who leads two Muslim groups on campus, said that sometimes the AU campus can feel siloed.

“We coexist fine on campus, but I think coexisting is just the base,” she said. “I think that not only do we have to tolerate each other, but we have to come together and love each other.

“We see a lot of hate speech targeted towards both Muslim and Jewish community members and we can’t let that happen,” she added. “We need to stand together as minorities and speak out against it.”

At one point in the rally, Rabbi Batya Steinlauf of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington spoke on stage with Robert Marro, a board member in the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling.

Steinlauf emphasized that both the Jewish and Muslim traditions share the belief that all humanity is descended from the same person, and Marro put the rally into historical context and added some levity to the event.

“I doubt if any of the founding fathers ever had any conception of what hummus was,” he said. “But if they tried it, I’m sure they’d all be in favor of spreading hummus and not hate.”

Article from:


The Spread Hummus Not Hate minivan tour around Greater Washington culminated in a rally which drew more than 200 Muslim and Jewish students and community activists to a late afternoon rally on the Quad at American University where they vowed to stand up for each other and in support of religious freedom for all Americans.


Imam Ali Siddiqui & Rabbi Michael Feshbach of Temple Shalom, Chevy Chase during visit by SHNH minivan to Temple Shalom 



(l-r) Remaz Abdelgader and Nadia Hassan sing on SHNH minivan

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at AU delivered opening remarks at the rally, expressing deep concern about the escalating anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S., including from candidates in the presidential election, and remarking, “Today it’s against Muslims, but tomorrow it could be anti-Semitism or against African-Americans or other groups. All of us need to say, ‘Enough is enough. Here is a red line and we won’t allow it to be crossed.”

FFEU Muslim-Jewish Prgram Director Walter Ruby told the Rally, “Spread Hummus, Not Hate, the kickoff event for FFEU’s annual Season of Twinning is the purest distillation of our growing Muslim-Jewish movement. We are coming out today to vow to Stand Up for Each Other and to stand together with Americans of conscience from all faith traditions in defense of religious freedom for all faiths and no faith; for full rights for all Americans regardless of faith, race or ethnicity.”


Cantor Lisa Levine leads members of the congregation and SHNH bus riders in singing of Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu 

A highlight of the rally came when AU Hillel President Susan Klau and MSA President Bakhtawar Mirjat stood together on stage and vowed to combine forces against what Mirjat called , “the hateful rhetoric against us both on the national stage. We need to stand up for each other.” AU Jewish and Muslim Chaplains Jason Benkendorf and Imam Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad delivered a Joint Prayer for Peace, in which they prayed for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, for an end to violence and teroruism and for peace in America, including an end to the demonization of diverse faith and ethnic communities. The two intoned together the Talmudic and Quranic adage, that, ‘It you save one life it is as though you have saved the whole world.’

Catherine Orsborn urged members of the audience to sign the Religious Freedom Pledge vowing to speak out against demonization or discrimination against any faith or ethnic community.

The Rally at AU capped a day during which Muslim and Jewish riders on the minivan, which was generously contributed by the ADAMS Center, toured Greater Washington with stops at the Muslim Community Center, in Silver Spring, MD, University of Maryland in College Park, Masjid Muhammad in northeast Washington, Farragut Square in downtown Washington, Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, MD and Washington Hebrew Center in northwest Washington to deliver the message, “We are coming together as Muslims and Jews to declare that we will stand up for each other if either community is victimized by violence or by hateful rhetoric. No matter what happens on November 8, no matter what other events may occur in the coming weeks and months, we vow to stand together against Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry.”


Members of the Spread Hummus Not Hate minibus tour visited with Rabbi Brice Lustig (third from left) in the sanctuary at Washington Hebrew Congregation


Rally Participants to Declare: We Will Stand Up for Each Other and Fight Hatred and Fear Mongering No Matter Who Wins the Election on November 8!


For immediate release:


For further information, contact:

Walter Ruby, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding:

Andra Baylus, Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum:

Patrick Burnett, American University:


Concerned about an increase in bigoted rhetoric and hate crimes in recent months, members of Muslim and Jewish student groups and community activists from the Greater Washington area will come together at a first-of-its-kind Rally on the Quad at American University (AU) on Thursday, October 20 from 4:30-5:45 to vow to defend each other and oppose the demonization of any faith or ethnic community, regardless of the election results on November 8th or other external events.


As an expression of that commitment, participants in the rally, including leaders of AU Hillel, the Jewish Student Association, the AU Islam Awareness Campaign, and the Muslim Student Association, as well as interfaith activists of all faiths from around Greater Washington, will sign the Religious Freedom Pledge, which commits signers to “uphold and defend the freedom of conscience of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out, without reservation, against bigotry, discrimination, harassment and violence based on religion or belief.”

The rally at AU, which is being hosted by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at AU, in cooperation with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum, is the culminating event of the Third Annual “Spread Hummus, Not Hate” (SHNH) day-long minivan tour of Greater Washington on October 20, during which Muslim and Jewish activists visit mosques, synagogues, campuses and a public park in downtown Washington to say, “We are Muslims and Jews coming out in public to express our love for each other and our dedication to working together for the betterment of both our communities as well as the Greater Washington community in which we live side by side.”


Riders on the SHNH minivan will share free hummus and pita with people at multiple venues during the daylong tour that also includes a lunchtime encounter at Farragut Square in downtown Washington.

See the below itinerary of the Oct 20th SHNH Minivan tour:

8:30 AM   The Muslim Community Center, Silver Spring, MD

10:15 AM   The University of Maryland, College Park, MD

11:30 AM   Masjid Muhammad, Washington, DC

12:45 PM   Farragut Square Park, Washington, DC

2:00 PM   Temple Shalom, Chevy Chase, MD

3:15 PM   Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, DC

4:30 PM   American University, Rally on the Quad, Washington DC

Ambassador Ahmed commented: “We are pleased and excited that Muslim and Jewish student leaders, as well as people of conscience from around the area, will be coming together on October 20 to express our love for and commitment to each other. This rally, which is non-partisan in nature, is an articulation of our commitment to stand united at a time when we have seen a worrisome rise in rhetorical attacks and hate crimes against Jews, Muslims and others.”

Ahmed noted that Jewish and Muslim chaplains at AU will deliver a joint Prayer for Peace, expressing their common desire for an early end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and for people of conscience of all faiths to come together in the U.S. to uphold democratic values and religious freedom for all.


Walter Ruby, Muslim-Jewish Program Director at the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which has been working since 2007 to strengthen Muslim-Jewish ties across the U.S. and around the world, stated, “We are pleased that Spread Hummus, Not Hate offers Washington area Jews and Muslims to make clear at this portentous moment in history that whatever happens on November 8 and during the ensuing weeks and months, we will have each other’s backs, if either community is demonized or discriminated against.”


Andra Baylus of the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum remarked, “Spread Hummus Not Hate allows us to share with everyone we interact with the good news that despite the inaccurate perception that Jews and Muslims are adversaries, in fact, we are involved in an ongoing effort to build ties of friendship and trust. During the minivan tour and at the AU rally, we will sing, pray, rap and eat hummus and pita together. For those who are working to drive wedges between Jews and Muslims and set Americans of all backgrounds against each other, this min-bus tour of Spread Hummus Not Hate is the perfect answer!”