Letters to the Editor 9/19

A plea to remember American ideals – tolerance and acceptance

In light of the enormous tragedy that has touched so many lives and consumed the interest of us all, we believe it is especially important at this time to remember two of America?s greatest ideals ? tolerance and acceptance. Moreover, it has come to our attention that many in our local and national community may be having some difficulty expressing these ideals today.

Crowding out the ideals of tolerance and acceptance are expressions of anger and fear coupled with calls for vengeance; and all too often it seems these vengeful cries are articulated with the limited and hurtful rhetoric of ethnic bias or religious hatred. Many of us have heard ugly slurs uttered about American Muslims in recent days. To hear such words should make us shudder and make us sad as well. This is not the language of America. This is not the rhetoric that made America the splendid beacon of hope that still shines brightly in our world.

History has shown that reactions such as these are not uncommon in response to tragedies such as those that occurred on Sept. 11. Before moving too quickly, however, to act on the angry impulses of the moment, perhaps we would all do better to remember that vengeful actions never bring healing but only a deepening of painful wounds. And this is especially true in the case of America, whose very identity has been shaped by ideals of tolerance and openness to differences. How easy it is to forget these principles when blinded by anger and fear. How easy too it is to leap to biased judgements and vulgar stereotyping of persons who are our neighbors and colleagues; and if nothing else, fellow followers of the American dream.

Today, our eyes may fill with tears, but this tragedy can be an opportunity for all Americans to come together, in sorrow perhaps, but certainly not in hate. We have a common enemy ? hatred ? and we have common ideals, tolerance, welcoming and openness to others. We need not derail ourselves resisting hatred, just in practicing a genuine tolerance and acceptance of our differences, a welcoming of others and an openness to white, black, brown, yellow and red faces, other religious convictions and practices, and other clothing and foods.

We would like to remind the citizens of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and the wider community that Jews, Christians and Muslims signed a common accord in 1994 decrying violence, rejecting war and rejecting crimes committed in the name of religion. This is the Bosphorous Declaration signed by clerics of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths in Turkey. The signers pointed out most emphatically that the scriptures of all three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) specifically speak of peace as a supreme value. Jews say, ?His ways are the ways of peace.? Christians affirm, ?Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.? Muslims recite, ?Allah summons to the abode of peace.? When we are driven by intolerance, there is no peace.

On Sept. 12, the day after the national tragedy, a flyer was posted on a wall in the building where we teach religious studies courses. What it said is worth noting: ?These attacks are against both divine and human laws and we condemn them in the strongest terms. The Muslim Americans join the nation in calling for swift apprehension and stiff punishment of the perpetrators, and offer our sympathies to the victims and their families.? The flyer was produced by the Muslim students of the University of South Florida. We are in agreement.

The faculty of the Department of Religious Studies.

Muslim and Arab Americans not to blame for terrorist attacks

As we all know this tragic incident that happened on Tuesday affected many people as well as the Muslims. This incident also caused conflict between two different groups of people, the Muslims and the Christians (Americans). But why is it that Americans are turning so much against Arab Muslims? When Timothy McVeigh was guilty for the Oklahoma City bombing no Muslims or Arabs threatened the Americans.

But why is the media stereotyping the Arabs? Now it?s even hard for a Muslim woman to go in public with her scarf because she is afraid she will get harassed or threatened by the Americans.

Many women were treated badly in public. Some women went into stores where the store managers refused to sell them anything. Some women had bottles thrown at them while walking down the street. This isn?t right.

From what I know President Bush clearly said, ?Give the American Arabs and the Muslims the respect they deserve.? It seems as if no one is listening to the leader of the United States. Many Muslims contributed to donating blood for those victims involved in the crash, because they also care. The government isn?t even sure whether this horrific action was caused by Muslims, but already people are jumping to conclusions.

Even if it does turn out to be a Muslim or Arab who caused this, Americans shouldn?t treat other Muslims and Arabs as if they did it. If the Muslims treated the Americans according to their actions and crimes there would be no peace between them whatsoever.

Diana Mitwalli is a sophomore majoring in chemistry.

A poem to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 WTC tragedy

Forever Day

I am looking in a mirror and what do I see?
I see my wife, my children and future all standing right in front of me.
I look around and try to remember why I am here
As thoughts cascade from far to near.
Memories begin to hit me like a screeching sound
And overtake me as I hit the ground.
I wake up now and I am in my place
High above the city staring at a lady who stands with such grace.
Amazed by this city that moves at an ever quickening rate
Concerned for my co-workers who can do nothing but wait.
For terror stuck in the name of hate
And murdered those who were doomed to this fate.
The plane hit like a deafening quake
And destroyed anything that stood in its wake.
There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide,
People were burned and killed right before my eyes.
The morning quickly changed to a smoky night
And took away any chance of escape by sight.
The screaming and yelling began to die down
And the smoke overtook me as I hit the ground.
I could barely breathe, and I began to pray,
Father above, save me from these terrible ways.
I hear footsteps of rescuers as they begin to race,
Oh, God above, show mercy and grace.
I?m on my knees with burns on my face,
I plead to you, do I deserve this fate?
A hero finds me and we begin to flee,
But then I feel the world give out from under me.
I think of my family now and I try to hold on,
I hold the weight of the world up with their love and then I am gone.
Reality sets in as I lay on a lawn
I walk over and open up a bag, and what do I see?
I see there was no mirror ? it was me staring back at me.
I begin to walk with others and we assemble in such a way
Holding each other?s hands not knowing what to say.
We are all now the brothers and sisters of this terrible day.
We stand together with tears in our eyes,
Wondering why we were used in this terror, why were we chosen to die.
We stand together with blank looks on our faces
Trying now to forget this place,
But don?t you ever forget about me –
A man whose death was not meant to be.
With love in your heart, we can erase this hate
And build this country into a better place.
We stand united with hope in our face,
All members now of the heavenly race.

I wrote this poem for those who have lost their lives in this terrible tragedy. Each of their accounts of what happened to them we will never know. Their pain and suffering is something that most of us will never be able to comprehend. It is up to us to make sure that they did not die in vain.

We must never forget what happened to those innocent people on Sept. 11. I hope that when the list of those who died comes out that people will take the time and read the names and even write down a few of them and hold on to it.

As long as their names are in our mind, then they will continue to live in all of us.

Jeremy Armstrong is a senior majoring in psychology.