Huff Post- First Posted: 09-11-10 09:23 AM | Updated: 09-11-10 09:23 AM
NEW YORK (AP) — Politics threatened to overshadow a day of mourning Saturday for nearly 3,000 Sept. 11 victims amid a polarizing national debate over a planned mosque blocks from the site where Islamic extremists attacked America.
Chants of thousands of sign-waving protesters both for and against the planned Islamic center were expected after — and perhaps during — a ceremony normally known for somber church bells ringing and a sad litany of families reading their lost loved ones’ names.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were to attend separate services in Washington and Shanksville, Pa., for the victims of hijacked jetliners that hit the Pentagon and a rural field in 2001.
But the rallies planned in New York embroiled victims’ family members in a feud over whether to play politics on the ninth anniversary of the attacks.
Nancy Nee, whose firefighter brother was killed at the World Trade Center, is bitterly opposed to the Park51 proposed mosque and Islamic community center near ground zero. But she didn’t plan to join other family members at an anti-mosque rally hours after the anniversary ceremony.
“I just wanted to be as at peace with everything that’s going on as I possibly can,” Nee said. Even nine years later, she said, her brother George Cain’s death “is still very raw. … And I just don’t have it in me to be protesting and arguing, with anger in my heart and in my head.”
Jim Riches planned to pay respects at ground zero to his firefighter son, Jimmy, then rally.
“My son can’t speak anymore. He’s been murdered by Muslims. I intend to voice my opinion against the location of this mosque,” Riches said. “If someone wants to go home, that’s their right. I have the right to go there.”
Huff Post- Karen Armstrong
Former Roman Catholic nun; Author, ‘Through the Narrow Gate’
The anniversary of 9/11 reminds us why we need the Charter for Compassion. It should be an annual summons to compassionate action. The need is especially apparent this year. In the United States, we have witnessed an upsurge of anti-Muslim feeling that violates the core values of that nation. The controversy surrounding the community centre near Ground Zero, planned by our dear friends Imam Feisal Rauf and Daisy Khan (who were among the earliest supporters and partners of the Charter) has inspired rhetoric that shames us all. And now we have the prospect of the Quran burning proposed by a Christian pastor, who seems to have forgotten that Jesus taught his followers to love those they regard as enemies, to respond to evil with good, and to turn the other cheek when attacked, and who died forgiving his executioners.
If we want to preserve our humanity, we must make the compassionate voice of religion and morality a vibrant and dynamic force in our polarised world. We can no longer afford the barbarism of hatred, contempt and disgust. At the same time as we are so perilously divided, we are drawn together electronically, economically and politically more closely than ever before. A Quran burning, whenever it is held (it appears to have been delayed for questionable reasons by the pastor behind it), would endanger American troops in Afghanistan and send shock waves of distress throughout the Muslim world. In an age when, increasingly, small groups will have powers of destruction that were previously the preserve only of the nation-state, respect and compassion are now crucial for our very survival. We have to learn to make a place for the other in our minds and hearts; any ideology that inspires hatred, exclusion and division is failing the test of our time. Hatred breeds more hatred, violence more violence. It is time to break this vicious cycle.