Religious leaders gathered at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix on Monday evening for a solidarity vigil against a group of armed bikers trying to spread an anti-Muslim message.
The bikers’ “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” and accompanying “draw Muhammad” contest were organized by Jon Ritzheimer, an ex-Marine. His group may have intended to send a message of hate to the mosque’s 800 members, but churches and synagogues in Phoenix were determined to reject that hate with a powerful show of love.
There’s a movement to tear down and separate out our community, but I’d like people to understand that we are stronger together,” said the Rev. Erin Tamayo, executive director of the Arizona Faith Network, one of the organizations behind the vigil. “We are one, even though we are different.”
Monday’s vigil was organized by more than 20 groups including the Arizona Interfaith Movement and the Anti-Defamation League and drew about 200 participants, according to Reuters. The event featured a number of speakers and a time for attendees to meet and greet. Community members also left flowers at the mosque, filling the house of worship with “peace, love and care,” Tamayo said, instead of the negative messages the mosque has received in the past.