Sunday, September 12, 2010

Berkeley against hate on 9/11

Yesterday while some 1500 New Yorkers gathered in what Josh Marshall called a "Republican hate festival" in Lower Manhattan to protest the proposed Islamic Cultural Center (and an almost equal number opposed them), several hundred Berkeley residents turned out calmly to hear chanting of chapters of the Qu'ran and proclaim their community's solidarity against all forms of religous and secular intolerance.

A long line of determined people wound their way through Ohlone Park to a partially shaded area by the playground.

The sheer number of eager participants was a happy shock to those who had called the gathering. They were prepared for 25, not ten times as many.

Organizer Robin Braverman spoke her truth:

I am a Jew. I am an American. Today is Shabbos Shuva, the shabbos of turning between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is the shabbos of returning to what is right and good in oneself. ... This turning, this shuva takes action. First one must apologize to those whom we have hurt -- a sincere apology, which comes for the sincere desire to never make the mistake again. I apologize to my Muslim brothers and sisters. I apologize for being silent in the face of the rampant Islamophobia that is gripping America. I apologize for my lack of action, for being blocked from the action I should have taken, for being too busy to take the action, for being too afraid to take the action I should have taken -- too blocked or too busy or too scared to say the words I should have said to my fellow Jews and to my fellow Americans. ...I promise to learn about the Muslim faith, more than I know and to make a sincere effort to understand Muslim ways. Most importantly I pledge to never again remain silent if others speak against Muslims or Islam in public or in private. ...

A man chanted a sura.

People in the crowd spoke from their hearts about why they had come.

A Berkeley crowd is not solemn, even when protesting bigotry.

It's easy to dismiss or mock this sort of gathering, but this too is where we start.

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