Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Collection of Stories on Desecrating 9/11 Memory

By Kevin Stoda

To tell the truth, American memory has not been great. (How many Americans—Muslim, Christian, or not—can remember that in September 2001, the U.S. Post Office brought out its first Arabic stamp?)

Moreover, as a trained history teacher, I have noted how little history lessons have been well-integrated in projects to improve American reading skills over the past 4 decades.

Now, this short-out in memory is being manipulated big time this election year by Republicans and conservatives of all stripes. Even worse, churches (who brought you the crusades and the war in Iraq) are too often found playing along.

On the other hand, it is also certainly true that, historically, persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim (and Hindu) countries are more than too common.
This ongoing cultural warring is now leading to a horrible ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 events and tragedies—Note that these events wee foreseen by many of us. That is a large backlash was inevitable in the 21st Century due to the policies of Western nationalist countries (so-clled Christian states) in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The following is a short collection of articles on the weekend’s events and likely backlashes around the globe.

(1) RADICAL RIGHT Desecrating 9/11

This Saturday, Americans across the country will mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While many view this as a time for Americans to unite in remembrance of the lives lost that day, some virulently anti-Islamic groups are using the anniversary as an opportunity to launch divisive attacks against Muslim Americans and the Islamic faith. The radical right-wing group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) is channeling the prevalent paranoid hysteria over the proposed Cordoba House Islamic community center into a rally against the project in New York City this Saturday. Doubling-down on the Islamophobia, a church in Gainesville, FL -- ironically-named the Dove World Outreach Center -- plans to insult Muslims across the world by hosting an "International Burn a Quran Day" rally in which members will burn Islam's sacred text "to destroy the works of the devil." As one of the church's pastors puts it in his instructional video, "If you call yourself Christian, this is something you should be doing." While the leaders of these rallies, SIOA's Pam Geller and Dove World Outreach Center's pastor Terry Jones, claim to push a patriotic view, their protests have created a polarizing divide among Americans. On the right, high-profile conservatives have embraced Islamophobia as a political tool in a radical shift towards extremism. But a variety of religious and political leaders, as well as 9/11 families, have denounced the rallies as disrespectful events that trample on the American ideals of religious freedom and tolerance. Moreover, the ideological battle has led to very real and violent consequences that could endanger the lives of U.S. soldiers serving abroad.

A BLESSING FROM THE RIGHT: In promoting their respective events, Jones and Geller have injected increasingly hateful rhetoric into the dialogue over Islam in America. Jones, author of the book "Islam is of the Devil," insisted that "the times call for" Quran burning to say "stop, stop to Islam, stop to Islamic law, stop to brutality." As "chief spokeswoman against" the Cordoba Initiative, Geller has appeared on ABC, CNN, NBC Nightly News, and Fox to express her view that Muslim-Americans "will be attempting a political takeover, and if that doesn't work, they will turn to further intimidation, murder and terrorism -- just as they've already proved in dozens of countries around the world." Geller's well-documented Muslim-bashing has expectedly found support "from nearly every sector of America's racist right." The racist neo-secessionist group League of the South, the white nationalist organization National Policy Institute, and "the oldest and largest white nationalist forum," have all given resounding support to Geller's views and her blog. At her rally this Saturday, Geller will also be hosting far-right Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who notably said "Islam is not a religion" but "the ideology of a retarded culture." Indeed, Wilders' racist film "Fitna" compelled the Court of Amsterdam to charge him with inciting discrimination and hatred. While many would say support from such figures make Geller "a fringe character" with little credibility, a number of high-profile conservatives have jumped on Geller's bandwagon and legitimized her as a representative of a more radical right. Those who have "given their blessing" to Geller's anti-Islam rally this weekend include former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, New York Senate candidate Gary Berntsen (R), and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's wife Ginny Thomas. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who recently cited Nazis as an argument against the proposed Islamic center, originally agreed to send a video message to the rally but later rescinded the offer.

A PLEA FOR SANITY: While many conservatives are not troubled by the hate-inspiring anti-Islam rallies, a variety of organizations have decried these events as an affront to America's bedrock principle of religious freedom and tolerance. The National Association of Evangelicals, the nation's largest body of evangelicals, released a statement last month urging the Dove World Center to "cancel its plans" because they show a "disrespect" for Muslims and are "rooted in revenge." Geller's 9/11 rally has earned the scorn of Where to Turn, a organization representing 9/11 victims' families. The group states that the rally "disrespect[s] the memories of our loved ones on this sacred day at this sacred site." Having always protested any rally on 9/11 at Ground Zero, Where to Turn "will be joining other 9/11 organizations in asking that the organizers change the date for these events." The hateful rhetoric aimed at the Islamic center also spurred a new coalition of 40 civic and religious organizations, including families of 9/11 victims, to contact officials and ask them "to support the project as a reflection of religious freedom and diversity, and the rejection of 'crude stereotypes meant to frighten and divide us.'" Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman, who came under criticism for pushing to move the center, dubbed Geller's rally "un-American." Foxman views Wilders as "an anti-Muslim bigot" and Geller's SIOA as a group that "vilifies Islamic faith and is engaged in [claiming] there's a conspiracy to destroy American values, which is nonsense." "For people with political agendas to use the place and the moment for their own interests and their own platforms is desecrating the memory and very sad," he said.

DANGEROUS BACKLASH: The hateful rhetoric behind the rallies is doing more than desecrating the memory of 9/11, it is leading to very real and violent consequences that endanger Americans at home and abroad. The anti-Muslim sentiment not only has driven paranoid individuals to commit violent attacks against Muslims and mosques across the country, but it is "playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam." Dalia Mogahed of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies said the "extreme anti-Muslim views in the United States ironically mirror a central tenet of extreme Islamists" by "suggesting that Islam has no place in the United States." Indeed, Gen. David Petraeus said actions like Dove World Center's rally "is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems" for the 120,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops "still battling al-Qaeda and its allies in the Islamic fundamentalist movement." In a statement against the rally yesterday, Petraeus warned that the demonstration "could endanger troops" and "the overall effort in Afghanistan." Echoing Petraeus, commander of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan Gen. William Caldwell insisted that the Dove World Center's "actions will in fact jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we're trying to accomplish." Despite these warnings, Jones said on CNN today that he will not back down from the event. While "we are definitely praying about it," he said members "have firmly made up our mind" to go through with the rally. As if to confirm Petraeus's fears, hundred of Afghans railed against the U.S. at a rally in Kabul yesterday protesting the church's plans. While the U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying it was "deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend" Muslims, some protesters blamed President Obama for the planned Quran burning event and even called for his death.

(2) MAS Freedom Assists Local Florida Community in Response to Planned Burning of Qur'ans
A team of MAS Freedom advocates and supporters has traveled to Gainesville, Florida to support the local Gainesville Muslim community response to the planned public burning of copies of the Qur'an on September 11th, 2010. This activity is planned by a fringe religious community in Gainesville called the Dove Church, led by Rev. Terry Jones.

The local Muslim community of Gainesville has launched the "Gainesville Building Initiative" as a positive initiative focused on building unity within the local interfaith and civic communities of the city. The initiative will promote the building of bridges of understanding and cooperation among the residents of Gainesville. Activities associated with the initiative include the hosting open houses and sponsoring the visitations of houses of worship among the faith traditions within the city, the creation of a city council resolution supporting religious diversity and pluralism, and the efforts of non-Muslim students at the University of Florida to join their Muslim counterparts in observing the Ramadan fast. Interfaith community service programs are also planned for September 11th, including providing food for needy families in the area.

MAS Freedom endorses the wonderful work that the Muslim community of Gainesville and their leadership is doing. MAS Freedom representatives will arrive in Gainesville on September 7th to support the organizing efforts. We believe that the current climate of Islamophobia in America has contributed to both political scapegoating of Muslims and the hateful attitude exhibited by Rev. Terry Jones and his church. Although such animosity and hatred represents only a small vocal minority, MAS Freedom believes that such activities present a clear and present danger to religious pluralism and tolerance in America.

We call on all people of good will and conscience to join MAS Freedom in its efforts to combat Islamophobia and to promote religious freedom and pluralism.

You can help MAS Freedom in its effort by volunteering and making a donation today!

MAS Freedom
1325 G Street
NW, Washington, DC 20005
Suite 500

(3) Petraeus condemns Fla. church's plan to burn Korans

By David Nakamura and Javed Hamdard

KABUL - Gen. David H. Petraeus on Tuesday denounced plans by a Florida church to burn copies of the Koran this weekend, saying the demonstration could "endanger troops" and damage the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.
"It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems," Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement. "Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."
The White House also condemned the Florida church's plan, with press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterating Petraeus's contention that U.S. forces could be put in harm's way as a result. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the proposed demonstration "un-American" and said it was "inconsistent with the values of religious tolerance and religious freedom."
(On Faith: How to counter image of arrogance?)
Habibullah, a religious leader who organized a protest Monday morning in eastern Kabul to decry the Florida church's plan, said throngs of angry men chanted, "Death to America!" and "Death to Obama!"
He said some of the protesters pelted a passing U.S. military convoy with stones.
"I stopped them," said Habibullah, who uses one name. "Otherwise they would have burned the convoy."
The Dove World Outreach Center, a 50-member evangelical Christian church in Gainesville, Fla., announced plans to burn the Islamic holy books on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. At the Kabul protest, residents burned an effigy of Dove World pastor Terry Jones.
"I am very concerned by the potential repercussions of the possible Koran burning," Petraeus said. "Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday. Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen backed that warning Tuesday. He said that any burning of Korans would strongly contradict "all the values we stand for and fight for."
In Florida, Jones rejected the warnings and said his church plans to go through with its "International Burn a Koran Day."
Jones said he agrees with Petraeus that burning copies of the Koran could provoke violent opposition, but he argued that the United States should stop apologizing for its actions and bowing to kings, the Associated Press reported. He apparently referred to a London summit meeting in April 2009 when President Obama greeted Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah II, now 86, by clasping his hand and bowing.
Jones told CNN that "we have firmly made up our mind" to carry out the Koran burnings, "but at the same time, we are definitely praying about it." He said his group is "weighing the situation." He added: "Our message is a message of warning to the radical element of Islam."
The 58-year-old pastor told AP he has received more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a pistol strapped to his hip.
NATO forces are in the midst of a surge of troop levels in Afghanistan to root out Taliban insurgents in increasingly dangerous areas in the south and east. At least 500 foreign troops have been killed in the country this year, compared with 512 in 2009, the highest annual toll in the nine-year-old war.
"Images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence," Petraeus said. "Such images could, in fact, be used as were the photos from [Abu Ghraib]. And this would, again, put our troopers and civilians in jeopardy and undermine our efforts to accomplish the critical mission here in Afghanistan." Petraeus referred to the prison in Iraq that gained notoriety when the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. guards was revealed in 2004.
In a separate statement denouncing the Florida church's plan to burn Korans, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said: "The United States government in no way condones such acts of disrespect against the religion of Islam, and is deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups."
It said Obama made clear in a June 2009 speech in Cairo that he considers it part of his presidential responsibility to "fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they occur."
The statement added: "Americans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds reject the offensive initiative by this small group in Florida. A great number of American voices are protesting the hurtful statements made by this organization. Numerous interfaith and religious groups in America are actively working to counter this kind of ignorance and misinformation that is offensive to so many people in the U.S. and around the world."
The embassy recalled that Obama's envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, visited Afghanistan a few days ago to convey a "message of friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding between the U.S. and Muslim communities all around the world."
Enayatullah Balegh, an imam at the Pol-e-Khishti mosque in Kabul, said Afghan religious leaders hope the United States government will find a way to bar the church from burning the holy book.
"If they decide to burn the holy Koran, I will announce jihad against these Christians and infidels," he said Tuesday. "We will defend the holy Koran."

(4) CHURCH: Christians to condemn planned Quran burning in US

By: Babu Thomas
Wednesday, 1 September 2010, 15:42 (IST)
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Church leaders in India will condemn the burning of Quran by some "fanatic" Christian groups in US.

Catholic and Protestants leader will come together in Mumbai on Wednesday to stress on Christianity's message of peace and condemn those acting contrary to it.

The meeting will be attended by the Catholic archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, along with bishops of the Protestant Church of North India and other Christian groups.

"We will speak out against a few Christian fanatics in USA. The tirade against Islam by some extremist Christians groups, particularly a little known preacher, pastor Terry Jones in Florida, is giving rise to misunderstandings,” spokesperson for the Catholic archbishop, Fr Savio Fernandes, told a local media.

"Jones has threatened to burn the Quran to commemorate 9/11. We will send out the message that preaching hatred goes against the tenets of Christianity," he said.

Jones heads the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. He is planning to host an "International Burn a Quran Day" on September 11. The nondenominational church has also accepted the support of Right Wing Extreme, an armed civilian militia group that has agreed to protect the church.

Says Gul Kripalani, former president of the Indian Merchants' Chamber and an activist for Christian groups, "It is time we told the world that Christians do not believe in violence and hatred. We have to come out openly and stop the extremists from abroad who are spreading hate."

He urged Christians in India to take a stand against this issue.



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