AUGUSTA — Central Maine Muslims coming together to commemorate Arba’een, a Shia Muslim celebration marking the death of Imam Husayn, held a brief march as part of the event to show support for their Jewish neighbors in the wake of the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

“We walk together,” Kahlid Zamat, who hosted the Arba’een commemoration at his family’s store, Mainly Groceries, said Tuesday afternoon of why the group decided to include a show of support for Jews as part of their Muslim religious observance.

He said the Pittsburgh incident was tragic and a loss of life for no reason. He said people of different religions should be together.

Rabbi Erica Asch, leader of Temple Beth El, who with other attendees Tuesday shared a traditional meal of beef, spiced rice, beans in sauce and bread after the brief march, said the show of support, not just by Muslims at the event but also be other religious leaders in the area who’ve expressed support for the Jewish community since Saturday’s shooting deaths of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, has been moving.

“We have a really vibrant interfaith community here in Augusta. The Christian and Muslim community has really stepped up to show support since Pittsburgh,” Asch said.

Temple Beth El, in turn, is inviting members of the community, regardless of their religion, to attend Friday Shabbat services, which Asch said will include talk of the Pittsburgh attack.

“We’ll be there,” Zamat, one of the first Iraqis to settle in Augusta, said when he learned of the 7 p.m. Friday service at Temple Beth El.

The Rev. Carie Johnsen, leader of Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta, and the Rev. Scott Dow, retired chaplain at Riverview Psychiatric Center, were there, too, each sharing food with about 40 people, many of them immigrants, who gathered for Arba’een.

“One of the most significant things we can do is come together as a multi-faith community, in both times of celebration and strife,” Johnsen said. “I think our best defense versus hate in the world is to come together, in these places we have in common.”

Carrying multi-colored flags with pictures of Imam Husayn, grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and the names of Husayn and his family written on them, participants gathered in front of Mainly Groceries on Northern Avenue, sipping lemon tea and listening to prayers on a loudspeaker. They then marched a short loop along Northern Avenue, with some chanting, in Arabic, “Oh Fatima, we will remember your son Husayn,” before returning to the store to share a meal together.

Fatima is Muhammad’s daughter, and mother of Husayn.

Ali Mushari, an Iraqi native now living in Augusta, said Arba’een is a time when he and others feel sympathy, and reflect on the death of Husayn, who centuries ago was killed by government oppressors after being denied water for three days. He said Husayn was known for wanting to bring people together in equality, and for helping and feeding the poor. He said Arba’een, which is celebrated by millions of people worldwide, is meant to make sure Husayn and his sacrifices are never forgotten.

“He was a man who wanted to bring everyone together,” Mushari said. “We walk to share awareness of Imam Husayn. It’s a huge part of Islam. We can’t ever let the people who killed him get away with it. The Prophet told us to feel sympathy for him.”

Hasaneen Al-Amiri, 14, of Skowhegan, said Imam Husayn is an inspirational figure, and helpful to turn to if you’re going through a tough time.

Ather Oufi, an Augusta resident who helped American troops in Iraq before he came to Augusta, went to the event with his 4-year-old son, Fadhl. He said Augusta area Muslims decided, together, to add a show of support for the Jewish community after learning of the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“We all agreed, we would stand with the Jewish people,” he said. The shooting “was a very sad story. It touched our hearts.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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