Editorial: 9/11 anniversary is no time for hate

The nationwide resurgence of anti-Muslim sentiment is sad and unfortunate. It threatens to tear at the seams of the fabric of America. On the ninth anniversary of 9/11, we appeal to the people of Newport-Mesa to refrain from joining in to stoke this frenzy against fellow Americans whose name for God might sound foreign to us, but who call their maker Allah. Locals should instead look to a mosque that's right here in Costa Mesa, the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County, as an inspiration for spreading peace and goodwill that is so badly needed between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans and among Islam and the longer established religions in the United States.

On Sept. 4, the center's Muslims invited members of other religions to share a meal with them in breaking their Ramadan fast that night. This interfaith event has become an annual fixture at the mosque on Airport Loop Drive. It was a welcome sight seeing local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints show up in unity.

"We have found that food is an amazing comforter, healer and gatherer of all faiths and creed[s]," Fatma Saleh, one of the center's board members, told the assembled guests and members of the congregation. "It is our hope that such a table spread tonight will become a means of fostering ties of mutual solidarity, sound understanding and peaceful coexistence among the citizens of this nation irrespective of our color, creed, gender or faith."

Amen to that.

After the dinner — a feast that featured beef and chicken kebabs, rice, feta cheese, yogurt, dates, sweets and other Middle Eastern delights — the center's leader, Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini, spoke eloquently about the "orchestrated campaign of Islamophobia and bigotry going on in America right now."

Specifically addressing the Peoples of the Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — the imam noted how the Koran embraces Jews and Christians and speaks highly of the propehts of their religions, Abraham and Jesus among them.

"We are one family, so an assault on one member of this family is considered an attack, an assault, an aggression against all members of this family," Al-Qazwini said. "What happened on 9/11/2001 in America is a tragedy for all of us….

"We Muslims and our Prophet Muhammad and our divine book, the Holy Koran, are not responsible for the act of violence of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda are the enemy of Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs, Americans and non-Americans. We Muslims are not responsible for what Osama bin Laden did on Sept. 11. We condemn that."

We agree with most of what al-Qazwini said and praise his center's efforts to build bridges between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Muhammad Atta and the 18 other men who embarked on that suicide mission nine years ago Saturday belonged to a fringe network of fanatics. Whether we like it or not, they carried out that coordinated series of horrific acts in the name of Islam, as did green card holders and American citizens who have since attempted to commit other alleged acts of terrorism on U.S. soil.

Yet, at the same time, we reject any suggestion that these extremists represent all Muslims. An entire religion and the countless American citizens who practice Islam's tenets and apply the Koran's precepts to their own lives should not be lumped together with terrorists and condemned or shunned as un-American. That is what the hate-mongers would like us to do. And that can only divide us.

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