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San Diego Religious Leaders Discuss Violence In France

Imam Taha Hassane of the Islamic Center of San Diego addresses a crowd outside Balboa Park's House of France at a vigil for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, Jan. 8, 2015.
Milan Kovacevic
Imam Taha Hassane of the Islamic Center of San Diego addresses a crowd outside Balboa Park's House of France at a vigil for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, Jan. 8, 2015.
San Diego Religious Leaders Discuss Violence In France

Vigil Sunday At Balboa Park

Following the violence in Paris, a unity march will be held Sunday in France, and San Diegans plan to hold a prayer vigil here in support of that effort. It's called "Je Suis Charlie — Commemorative Walk for Charlie — San Diego."

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: House of France, Balboa Park

San Diego religious leaders on Friday spoke out against the deadly terrorist attacks in France that have stunned the world.

Gunmen on Wednesday stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly magazine in Paris, killing 12 people. The publication was fire bombed in 2011 after it published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that were considered insulting to Muslims.

The killings at the magazine led to a massive manhunt in Paris and other parts of France that ended violently Friday in two hostage standoffs. The two brothers suspected in the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, Said and Chérif Kouachi, were killed in a shootout with police near Paris. A third man, Amedy Coulibaly, took hostages at a kosher grocery story in Paris. He and four hostages were killed there.

Imam Taha Hassane, director of the Islamic Center of San Diego, told KPBS Evening Edition that the offensive cartoons aren't reasons to commit violence.

"We as Muslims, even though we disagree with the publishing of the cartoons and portraying our beloved prophet this way, we don't see any excuse for committing such horrible terrorists acts in the name of our faith," Hassane said.

Hassane said the violence has sparked fear among Muslims in San Diego County.

"Whenever something like this happens in the world, my community members are very concerned because they feel their faith has been hijacked by terrorists," he said. "They are concerned about the backlash, thinking about the safety of their own lives, their kids and our house of worship."

Hassane was among about 200 people who gathered Thursday night at the House of France in Balboa Park for a vigil following the killings Charlie Hebdo. Another prayer vigil is planned there Sunday.

In an interview with KPBS, Rabbi Scott Meltzer from Ohr Shalom Synagogue echoed Hassane's comments, touching on the many times when Jews have been the victim of violence.

"It's part of the tragic reality that there's too often a link between world terrorism and anti-Semitism," Meltzer said. "The real fear is of a copy cat in San Diego, not necessarily connected to any global organization, might take it upon himself or herself and see this as the moment or sign that they should come forward violently."

The two urged people of faith to reflect on the violence and take it as an opportunity to come together to speak out against terrorism.

"It's OK to feel angry because somebody offended you, but the question is how to take that challenge and to make it an opportunity to bring something positive and productive to society," Hassane said.