Members of the Islamic community gathered Sunday in Johnson City to remember Richard Antoun and to denounce the act of violence that took his life.
Antoun, a Mideast scholar and peace activist, was fatally stabbed Friday afternoon in his Binghamton University office. Abdulsalam S. Al-Zahrani, a BU post-graduate student, is charged with second-degree murder.
Although Al-Zahrani is purportedly Muslim, he was unknown to local Muslims and did not participate in community events, said Kasim Kopuz, imam at the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier's mosque in Johnson City.
The crime Al-Zahrani is accused of -- killing a teacher -- is senseless in the context of Muslim tradition and belief that places teachers equal to or above parents in rank.
"A parent nourishes one's body while a teacher nourishes his soul," Kopuz said, citing the Prophet Muhammad.
Antoun was active with many different religious groups, and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton. On Friday, the church will have a memorial service beginning at 12:30 p.m., said Kate Thorpe, president of the board of directors.
"He was easily befriended and a good friend to have," she said.
Antoun had friends of many faiths.
Kopuz and Entisham Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier, addressed about 70 people who attended a brief remembrance for Antoun Sunday at the mosque. They described him as a friend to the local Muslim community who often partook in events to expand religious tolerance and cooperation among faiths.
"We will sadly miss him," Kopuz said. "He was an embodiment of light and knowledge."
Siddiqui said Antoun's murder "goes beyond all explanation ... A lot of us are struggling to understand this tragedy. I've been asked repeatedly, and frankly, I have no clue."
As another example of his respect among all faith groups, Antoun was scheduled to participate in a seminar Sunday at Temple Israel in Vestal, exploring Christianity, Judaism and Islamic days of rest and other aspects of religious practice.
Several hundred people who attended the event at the Jewish synagogue observed a moment of silence in his memory.
Rosalyn Antoun, Richard's widow, urged the program to continue as scheduled, said Rabbi Barbara Goldman Wartell, of Temple Concord, one of the organizers of the event.
"She said this type of thing is our only hope for the future," Wartell said.
The rabbi described Richard as "mensch," a Yiddish work for a person who is highly regarded for kindness and integrity.
"It's a word for a person who you aspire to be like and want your kids to be like," she said.
Antoun was also remembered and mourned Sunday in the online world.
Thomas Blumenthal, 26, a sophomore at Binghamton University, created a Facebook group in memory of Antoun.
By late Sunday, the group had 1,270 members, who used the online forum to express their sympathy and write of their personal experiences with the well-respected anthropology professor emeritus.