Nearly two weeks after six Muslim men were arrested on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack on Fort Dix, a multi-religious annual prayer event stressed the importance of understanding and embracing diversity.

The audience consisted of men wearing yarmulkes and women wearing brightly patterned scarves on their heads. A Buddhist monk dressed in a maroon robe. A Catholic priest spoke of compassion.

The event focused on the importance of accepting each other and keeping an eye out for suspected extremists, like the six men arrested earlier this month in connection with planning a terrorist attack on Fort Dix.

“Not all Muslims are terrorists,” Quresh Dahodwala, a speaker at the event on Sunday, said. “Islam, as you may have heard many times, does not condone violence. It condemns suicide bombers. Islam is a religion of peace and love.”

Township Mayor Bernie Platt said at the event he would continue to fight for diversity and a zero-tolerance stance toward racism.

“We’re here to admonish and dismiss any sentiment that doesn’t reflect inclusion,” he said. “Diversity is a cornerstone of our community.”

About a dozen speakers talked about the importance of understanding and reaching out to learn about different cultures and religions and traditions.

The Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Dialogue of Southern New Jersey hosted the event and invited a Buddhist monk to pray for peace, Rabbi Andrew Bossov of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel to pray, Msgr. Joseph Devlin, a professor at LaSalle University, and Khalid Nasim of the Muslim American Community Association, and Shri Vinaya Vardhana of the Indian Temple Association to speak and pray and sing at the event.

The message Sunday was clear.

Stop racism, stop hatred, stop ignorance and learn to live together in a nation defined by diversity.

“I think events like this are important,” Collingswood resident Mike Riley said after the event. “I think it’s very important, especially after Fort Dix.”

Many nodded throughout the presentation, agreeing with the basic pillars of each religion that focused on peace, love, understanding.


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