HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A perspective not often heard at rallies supporting Israelis or Palestinians: A local Muslim leader asking everyone to call out senseless violence — no matter which side they are on. This leader explains — the war is taking a heavy toll on his community.
At the beginning of Friday prayers at the Hadee Mosque in Harrisburg, the imam talked about the conflict, asking people to pray for civilians in Palestine. Mohammed Lone, president of the Harrisburg chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, says prayer is their most powerful weapon right now.
“The imagery is gut-wrenching to anyone who has a heart,” Lone said.
He said that feeling is not just because of his religion.
“I mean, who can watch a child being blown to pieces? No one. Doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim, doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, doesn’t matter if you’re Jew,” he said.
Thinking back to October 7, Lone said Hamas’ actions were horrifying.
“We not only condemn that, but we remind everyone that it is against the teachings of Islam,” he said.
What has happened since, however, he said is equally horrific.
“It is against the teachings of the Holy Prophet to commit any atrocious acts on innocent civilians. And as such, the response of Israel is equally as atrocious,” he said.
Authorities in Gaza say more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, including over 4,000 children. Lone said his community has turned to prayer.
“When we’re praying, we’re pleading to God. And it is our belief that God is who controls everything. God can answer our prayers. He can turn any atrocity into, you know, peaceful times” he said.
Lone said community members have also written hundreds of letters to politicians, but have not gotten the responses they hoped for.
“We’re getting these responses from them that we are behind Israel 100%, etc., etc. So these are very heartbreaking responses that we’re getting from our own government,” he said. “We’re hoping for more of a humanitarian response from them, and we are letting them know that this is not okay and we’re going to continue to voice our opinions as Muslims.”
Lone said he wants people to speak out against violence, no matter who commits it.
“We all condemned Russia,” he said. “We still condemn them, rightfully so. Why are we not condemning Israel now? Why is Israel being held at different standards?”
In October, a United Nations expert condemned Israel’s order for over 1 million people in northern Gaza to evacuate, calling it a violation of international law.
Now, a month into the war in the Middle East, Lone is concerned it will only escalate, costing more innocent lives on all sides.
“It’s as if we haven’t learned our lesson from World War II, where we had 70 million people die and we’re headed right in that direction,” he said.
Lone also said the Muslim community is bringing interfaith leaders together for an initiative called “Voices of Peace.” It is an effort to show that people of any religion can come together and condemn violence on any side.