Bahai News - Muslim event honors police, firefighters, paramedics Thursday, October 11, 2001
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Muslim event honors police, firefighters, paramedics

By Vess Mitev

The Daily Iowan

Muslim, Christian, and Jewish voices joined together in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday night in a tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center bombing.

The event at the IMU, sponsored by the Association of Muslims in America, New Horizon Islamic Schools, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, honored local firefighters, police, and paramedics to sent a message of unity to the public.

"We, as Muslims, reject statements from Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, who exploit Islam for their illegitimate cause," said Salam Al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, as two American flags hung behind him. "It is time for American Muslims to be part of the solution, not just bystanders." Al-Marayati said he was encouraged by President Bush's dedication to eliminating the misconceptions surrounding Islam.

Guest speakers focused on the importance of all Americans coming together at this time, instead of segregating. UI Student Government President Nick Klenske, speaking to a crowd of around 150, called for the university to join the fight by offering courses on the Islamic faith.

"I challenge the university administrators to build a community," Klenske said. "The one thing we can do is educate people about the Islamic faith." Other Big Ten schools like Wisconsin and Penn State offer up to seven courses on Islam, while Iowa's single course is taught by a visiting professor who leaves next spring, said Klenske. He added that more events like this would raise awareness and help extinguish ignorance.

"We need to remember that we are a nation of law," said Iowa House Minority leader Dick Myers, "and as a state, we believe in the importance of community." Myers added that reactions of anger, revenge, and hatred needed to be stopped before they began.

UI junior Asma Haidri, co-president of Association of Muslims in America, said although she had read about 10 negative e-mails, she was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support.

"I was really happy that everyone's supporting us," she said. "The turnout was great, and I think we're really lucky to be in a place like Iowa City."

In a hushed voice, Iowa City Mayor Ernie Lehman said that making sense of the events remains up to the individual, and that honoring those that died is a high priority.

"Those firefighters and police officers didn't know if they were going in there for Jews, Muslims, Christians, white people, or black people," he said. "They went in there to get people, and that's all we are. We're people."

The chiefs of local FBI, public safety, fire and police departments were honored. They were presented with a plaque and a rose from the American Muslim community. Afterward, prayers were read from the Bahai, Jewish, Catholic, and Islam religions. Donations were collected for the American Red Cross.

In his final address, speaker Al Aly reminded the crowd the strength of America lies in its diversity.

"I'm a Muslim American. My best friend is a Christian, and all the letters of recommendation I've gotten have been from Jews. Where else in the world can you do that?"

E-mail DI reporter Vess Mitev at: vessfstbrk@hotmail.com


©Copyright 2001, The Daily Iowan

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