Bahai News - Songs, speeches urge Afghanistan restraint Published Monday, Oct. 1, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

Songs, speeches urge Afghanistan restraint

MULTIETHNIC CROWD ENJOYS MESSAGE OF TOLERANCE

BY JOHN WOOLFOLK
Mercury News

With music, poetry and prayer, Afghan women joined a multiethnic crowd in Hayward on Sunday to urge restraint and tolerance as America girds for war in Afghanistan over September's deadly terrorist attacks.

The two-hour presentation drew a capacity crowd of 1,400 to Chabot College's performing arts center with a message that war will only further the Afghan people's suffering.

``We assure you, Afghan people in the United States do not support terrorist attacks anywhere in the world,'' said Zohar Yusuf Daoud of the Afghan Community of Southern California.

The presentation featured Muslim, Christian, Hebrew and Baha'i prayers, Afghan poetry, peace songs and rousing speeches.

Rona Popall of the Afghan Women's Association International said her people have suffered from 20 years of war and the Taliban rulers who took over in 1996.

``The lives of millions of women and children have been shattered by human rights abuses,'' Popall said. ``The oppressive regime of the Taliban also has committed inhuman acts and atrocities against women and children.''

The event drew a crowd eager to show support for Afghans here and abroad.

``I wanted to get the real view on their culture,'' said Tina Shannon, 32, a high school teacher from Martinez. ``I'm especially worried about the innocent people of Afghanistan.''

The Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, in which more than 6,000 died, rocked the anti-war beliefs of longtime liberals and left many groping for the right response.

Civil rights lawyer Eva Paterson captured some of that conflict as she urged the crowd not to lose sight of the suffering inflicted by the attacks while opposing a war-like response.

``This is a tough time for all of us, a confusing time,'' Paterson said. ``No matter how angry you are at this country, that was wrong. People were on fire, people burned to death, people were jumping out of windows. But we must say we want justice, not vengeance.''

The event was organized by the Afghan Women's Association International and the San Francisco human rights group Global Exchange. About 10,000 Afghans live in the Fremont area, the largest concentration in the United States.

Many spoke of the need for tolerance toward people from the Middle East. Among them were Saif Ataya, a grocer whose San Francisco store has been vandalized since the attacks, and Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American interned during World War II.


©Copyright 2001, San Jose Mercury News

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