On the eve of the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11, events at Astoria Park and Jamaica High School demonstrated the hope the thousands of Muslim families in Queens have that the nation can move beyond fear and divisiveness.
More than 1,000 Muslims gathered in Astoria Park to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiest day in the Muslim calendar. Like the prophet Muhammad, many of those who attended the event had fasted for 30 days. At a similar event in southeast Queens, 28,000 Muslims gathered on the football field behind Jamaica High School.
The religious and political leaders who addressed the gathering spoke of the horrors of 9/11, the bitter debate over the building of an Islamic center near Ground Zero and the Florida pastor who had threatened to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11. The pastor changed his mind.
Sharif Aly, vice president of the Muslim American Society of Queens, told the gathering, “As Muslim Americans, we’ve witnessed a wave of anti-Muslim acts and we’ve been saddened by these acts. But we continue to believe in the American principles of tolerance and religious freedom.”
Following the service, a number of elected officials took the opportunity to speak. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said she wished the celebration could have been witnessed by more Americans. “If more of my fellow Americans had the chance to spend time with you and break bread together, they would see the charity, kindness, mercy and love for family and it would make our nation stronger,” she said.
She was joined by city Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who said, “This community works together toward peace. We’re all one community,” and by Michael Gianaris, who said, “We’re a diverse community. We respect and welcome all religions, all cultures here.”
Sadly, the media has fanned the flames of religious intolerance. Where were the networks that reported daily on the protest at Ground Zero and threats of a wacko minister? Where were the columnists and talk show hosts who take pleasure in finding violent passages in the Quran?
It seems at times, at least when it comes to the major media, if there is no violence, threat or hatred, there is no story. We disagree.