As a campus minister observed Thursday during a Cal State Northridge service for victims of the recent suicide bombings in Israel, "This isn't the first time" that terrorist violence has given rise to a memorial rite on campus.
But it was the first such gathering suggested by the Muslim campus clergyman, Ahmed El-Gabalawy, to a Jewish colleague.
Using the words of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, El-Gabalawy lamented killings by terrorists who say they act for Islam.
Referring to the scriptural story of Cain killing his brother Abel--common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam--El-Gabalawy said that the Koran comments: "Whoever kills a soul for no reason, it is as if he has killed all of humanity."
Among the 75 people who attended the brief lunch-hour service on campus were about 25 students from the "Introduction to Islam" class taught in the religious studies department by Afsin Matin.
"I thought this was very important for students to hear," said Matin. He said that many of his students have Muslim backgrounds.
"I think it was a good idea that Muslims are recognized for not all being fanatics," said Homeyra Faghihi, a class member who said she was raised as a Muslim but is not practicing the faith now.
El-Gabalawy, president of the university's Interfaith Council, proposed Monday to Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein of the CSUN Hillel group that a campus service be held after the weekend suicide bombings brought the death of Israeli citizens from such violence to 61 since Feb. 25.
Addressing those gathered for the outdoor ceremony--at which Catholic, Mormon and Protestant representatives also spoke--the rabbi called terrorism a destructive force to all faiths.
"These people who commit suicide and murder say they are doing it in the name of God, that they are fulfilling a religious mandate," said Goldstein.
"We gather under the banner of the Interfaith Council to say that our faiths do not need murder . . . and that suicide bombers are destroying the very peace process that will make possible a better life for all people."
Marc Levine, president of CSUN Associated Students, said the Palestine Liberation Organization now has a chance to "make a noble gesture" by declaring a war on the terrorist bombers and putting an end to the problem.
The service closed with the Kaddish, the traditional Jewish mourning prayer, leaving Dorit Nosrati, a university student who grew up in Tel Aviv, to ask:
"When will two nations leave the past behind? Wasn't centuries of killing enough? Why can't we have peace?"