“We the people” are not as dumb as bigots think we are

“We the people” are not as dumb as bigots think we are

by Sheila Musaji

God bless America!  Sometimes, those who make assumptions about the gullibility of the American people get a wake-up call.

All around the country on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on our country, there were respectful remembrances.  Prayers, moments of silence, tributes to those who died, interfaith and community service events in honor of the victims, honoring first responders, etc.

Here are just a few such events that were held:

In Washington, D.C. hundreds gathered for the 9th annual Unity Walk, seeking to find what people of different faiths share in common rather than what divides them.  “A microphone reverberated with the deep and sonorous Muslim call to prayer shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday. “Allaaaaaah — uh — Akbar!” An entire congregation bowed its head in prayer — a Jewish synagogue filled with Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Mormons, Pentecostals, Greek Orthodox, Baha’i and others.”

Across the country groups gathered to participate in the 11th annual National Day of Service and Remembrance “started in 2002 by family members of 9/11 victims as a way to honor victims and survivors and others who stepped up and did remarkable things on that day.  In 2009, Congress made it an official national day. Family members had wanted a day of service because on 9/11 and the days after, American’s united and gave so much in the spirit of compassion and patriotism. They felt that they best way to pay tribute to those who rose up in service was to continue to serve.  Anyone looking for an organized project to assist with can visit the Corporation for National & Community Service website at http://www.serve.gov/?q=site-page/september-11th-national-day-service-and-remembrance or just pledge to do a good deed on 9/11, officially or unofficially.” 

In Gainesville, FL  “... Alachua Habitat for Humanity volunteers will answer the commission’s call to service Thursday and Friday, giving their time to paint two homes of families in need, homes found through the Brush with Kindness Program. ...  The Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center at the University of Florida commemorated Sept. 11 with a Good Deed Mitzvah Marathon.”

In Mulberry, FL local citizens held a Unity Day “... Candles flickered to life with a shared flame, passed down a line of people by an amazing array of Baptists, atheists, Mormons, Muslims, and more. The men and women stood side by side in the Mulberry Civic Center. Each paused to share a message about their religion, culture, and traditions, then turned to light their neighbor’s candle.”

At Emory University students are holding remembrances and a day of service to the community.  They will have a dialogue on conflict resolution and reflect on creating global peace.

In Huntsville, AL faith leaders led an annual World Day of Prayer for peace.  “The service, which is open to the community, will include prayers from Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Hindu traditions, including an ancient fire prayer ceremony around the peace pole, a four-sided pole with the word “peace” written in numerous languages on it.”  Their interfaith group will also host a day of service and unity.”

In Rochester, NY Muslims held a Muslims for Life Blood Drive to mark the 9/11 anniversary with the gift of life.  These blood drives were held across the country, e.g. Canton, MAhttp://fox6now.com/2013/09/07/muslims-for-life-blood-drive-held-at-milwaukee-mosque/]Milwaukee, WI[/url], UNC, etc.

In Minnesota, the Islamic Resource Group (IRG), along with four of its sister organizations, took part in local and national events commemorating the victims of 9/11 through interfaith cooperation, rejecting violence in all its forms, and highlighting constructive responses to tragedy through outreach, volunteerism, and community service.

In St. Louis, MO, Cair, along with the Muslim community, interfaith groups and Veterans for Peace, has organized a neighborhood cleanup project in the Yeatman Market neighborhood.

In the Santa Clara, CA  American Muslim Voice Foundation, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese and the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission hosted a Multifaith Peace Picnic.

These remembrances, and the thousands of others held across the country honor the memory of those who died on 9/11, and honor the values of America and the people of America.  They help to bring us together and to create “out of many one”, as the motto on the Great Seal of the U.S. challenges us to do.

A minority of Americans are not having any part of unity, service, mutual respect, tolerance, prayers, etc.  These folks attempted to co-opt the 9/11 day of remembrance to further their own narrow (and mostly bigoted) political agendas.  Here are the three most egregious examples:

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s hate group, The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) planned an event near ground zero in NYC.  Their event poster called the event the AFDI 9/11 memorial service and press conference. They did everything they could to get a big turnout.  They had a Facebook page online since August 21st, and as of 9/10 it had 10 likes, 82 going, 50 maybe and 3,027 invited.  Geller and Spencer posted numerous articles on their sites, and their press release for the event was posted on many other sites in the Islamophobia echo chamber.  They included appeals like this: “Anyone and everyone should be with us at Ground Zero on 911. ...  Don’t let the enemy co-opt this day. Be there.  Their press release made it clear that the focus was on making certain that what was remembered was that Muslims and Islam were responsible for the 9/11 attack, not just the perpetrators. 

In the end, AFDI was refused a permit, they held the event anyway, and not more than 50 people turned up to hear Geller, Spencer, and the other speakers.  It seems the press wasn’t particularly interested in the “press conference” as I can find nothing about the event anywhere except Geller and Spencer’s blogs, and those of their fellow travelers.

A group calling itself the American Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC) advertised that they were holding a “Million Muslim March” then a “Million American March” in D.C.  The entire event was a publicity stunt for a wannabe politician and a group of “9/11 truthers”.  You can read about the event and its organizers in the article AMPAC “Million Muslim March” all hype and no substance.  They also attempted to shamelessly exploit the 9/11 anniversary for their own personal political agenda. 

In the end, AMPAC had only about 25 people turned up for their march (mostly non-Muslim “9/11 truthers”), and a “2 million bikers” counter event drew tens of thousands.  No Muslim leaders, community activists, or organizations participated in or approved of or gave any support to this offensive event.  Nevertheless, all of the publicity in the mainstream press assumed that this was a “Muslim” event.  It was not. 

Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center planned another Qur’an burning stunt.  This time he was going to burn 2,998 Qur’ans in a park in Mulberry Florida.  As noted above, the decent citizens of Mulberry planned their own events and formed a group protesting Jones’ plans called “Not in Mulberry”.

In the end, Terry Jones was refused a permit, but planned to go ahead with the event anyway.  He was arrested on the way to the event because he had 2,998 kerosene soaked Qur’ans in the bed of his pickup truck.  It seems from what can be pieced together so far from news reports that Jones would have had only about 10 people show up for his spectacle, and six of them came with him from his church.

All of these divisive, bigoted, shameless individuals failed in their efforts to spread their particular brands of hate.  What is wonderful is that they failed, and failed miserably.  The American people gave them all a resounding vote of no confidence.  Most of us are not buying what they are selling.

What I really don’t understand is why these individuals and organizations get so much media attention, and all of the good and decent people attempting to build bridges and to make the world a better place are ignored?