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Philadelphia community members across faiths came to help clean up Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday. (Photo: AFP)

Philadelphia Muslims and Jews 'Unite Against Hatred' After Cemetery Attack

Muslim activists rally to donate funds, assist in cleanup after Jewish grave site in Pennsylvania desecrated

Nadia Prupis

Muslim activists rallied again to help repair another Jewish cemetery vandalized over the weekend, this time in Pennsylvania, where at least 100 gravestones were toppled.

The president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA visited the Mount Carmel Cemetery in the northeast part of the city on Sunday and expressed solidarity and condolences to local Jewish leaders.

"We are deeply troubled by these rising and ongoing attacks on our Jewish sisters and brothers, and members from our Philadelphia chapter are in route to assist in clean up," said Dr. Nasim Rehmatullah, the group's national vice president. "We call upon all Americans to stand united against this hatred and extremism."

The incident was reported on Sunday after a man visiting the cemetery found that three of his relatives' headstones had been knocked over. While police estimated 100 markers were vandalized, cleanup crews reported at least 500.

It drew immediate comparison to the desecration of the historic Chesed Shel Emeth Society Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri just days prior.

Tarek El-Messidi, who helped raise funds for that site, along with well-known activist and organizer Linda Sarsour, pledged to donate leftover proceeds from the effort to help with repairs and restoration at Mount Carmel, the Washington Post reported Monday.

El-Messidi also visited the gravesite, where he saw a diverse group of people working to erect the masses of toppled gravestones.

"Seeing this in person was very devastating," he wrote in a Facebook post. "Many people there were embracing one another in tears due to what they saw. I want to ask all Muslims to reach out to your Jewish brothers and sisters and stand together against this bigotry."

Yosef Goldman, a local rabbi who was also at the cemetery, wrote in a separate post, "A caretaker for a nearby Quaker cemetery has been here for hours, and Muslim and Christian friends and colleagues are reaching out. Acts of violence against Muslim and Jews will only make us stronger and bring us together."

"Members of the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have showed up to help us right the headstones. They are calling their youth to come join us," he wrote, adding the hashtags #SacredResistance and #StrongerTogether.

Muslims and Jews—as well as other racial and religious minorities—have reported an increase in hate crimes since the election of President Donald Trump. Nancy Baron-Baer, the Philadelphia director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Post that a community cleanup day at the cemetery would take place later this week, and that a joint press conference was scheduled for later Monday for religious leaders across denominations to condemn the attack.

El-Messidi said the recent events, and the declarations of solidarity in response, have helped unite the communities.

"It took a tragedy like this to bring mosques and synagogues together to have dialogues," he told the Post. "These two communities that do have so much in common can get to know one another more and collaborate more against this kind of bigotry."

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