On 12 Sept 2001, I first saw Safdar Razi praying for peace on the south
steps of the Texas State Capitol. He was standing should-to-shoulder
with Rabbi Baker, whose congregation meets on the grounds of the Dell
Community Center. After that nootime prayer service, at which we heard
prayers from dozens of clergy for peace, I climbed the steps to meet
this remarkable man for the first time.
His friendship has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.
He and Rabbi Baker became close, and their congregations celebrated Yom
Kippur and Eid Al-Fitr together. In fact, Eid has come to be
celebrated by all Austinites who are interested: open to our entire community.
At my invitation, in late 2001 or early 2002, Safdar spoke during the
Sunday School hour at FUMC Austin, and his message of peace and love was
unmistakable and pure. The God of Abraham wants his children to love
each other, as all three great religions based upon that tradition
teach and history has proven numerous times is the only way we can survive
I have never met a man more committed to open communications, “agreeing
to disagree,” or loving all of God’s creation — instructed to do so
by his faith — than Brother Safdar Razi.
When he said to call him “Brother” my father, Reverend Doctor D. Orval
Strong — a retired Methodist minister — said, “I guess that makes me
your uncle.” Safdar said that was okay because his uncle had been
killed in Pakistan.
He often held up the Q’uran and said that it did not sanction killing,
that “If you kill one person it is as if you have killed everyone, and
if you save one person it is as if you have saved everyone.”
He once said that like the patterns in wallpaper, diversity among
people makes the world more beautiful in God’s eyes. Safdar’s ability to
make the teachings of Islam clear is invaluable. There is a lot of
misinformation, and to hear from someone who is well-educated and faithful,
to be reminded that three of the world’s great religions worship a God
who has commanded us to love each other and care for our brothers and
sisters is inspirational and uplifting.
As I said, I have never met a man more committed to peace and love and
harmony among people of good will than Brother Safdar Razi. His
message of tolerance undoubtedly puts him in danger in many places, including
Pakistan. Even Bhutto was unsafe there; how could they protect him?
His is a brave, kind, intelligent, and energetic man. The USA needs
him. I need him, as his friendship has illuminated parts of my world
that were a mystery to me since the late 70s at least.
This nation was built with the strengths of many different cultures,
and seeing him and Rabbi Baker and the other members of AAIM meet and
talk, rejoice, worship, and pray together reminded me that here in our
nation we really do continue to have freedom of religion and it is a very
We should not have to fight for what we believe in because we are
Americans and can believe anything we want to. Safdar has shown me that
those who use Islam for non-loving purposes are defilers of the teachings
of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and unworthy to call themselves
The Spanish Inquisition did not take place under the rule of the Moors,
and our own history has shameful incidents — from the Salem witch
trials to the McCarthy hearings — of misguided finger pointing based on
fear and ignorance.
Personally, were it in my power, I would grant Safdar honorary
citizenship if for no other reason than for spreading peace and harmony in the
bewildering and horrifying days following the tragedy we all witnessed
nearly seven years ago. There are enough problems in the world and
enough people wishing to do harm that we do not need to be rejecting those
who truly do believe in “liberty and justice for all.”
Beyond that, Brother Safdar is true to his faith. To say he has not
always acted as an Imam (or even a pastor) to those who turned to him on
questions of faith or personal need is to be blind to reality. If he
has transgressed restrictions placed upon him, community service would be
the ideal punishment; he has done nothing but devote himself to the
well-being of our American community since the opportunity first
It has been thrilling me to see the outpouring of support for him from
everyone who has known him well, like my dear friend Sara. Any who
think our nation could be served in any positive way by expelling him do
not know Safdar or how genuinely he serves and exemplifies the love that
binds us all as children of God, without exceptions.
Love and Peace from David Strong in Austin