NY Muslims Plea for Tolerance
By Carol Eisenberg


Imam Siraj Wahhaj

An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Muslims protested peacefully across from the Danish Consulate in Manhattan Friday in the largest US rally to date against a Danish newspaper's decision to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
"We have to restrain our anger," urged Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who led Friday prayers before hundreds of people who were prostrate on tarps, plastic bags and rugs laid atop wet asphalt. "We have to make our response productive, so that they never do this again."
While the cartoons have provoked worldwide furor, including the burning of Danish embassies in several countries in the Middle East, only a handful of protests have occurred in this country. An earlier protest at the same plaza --- drew several hundred people.
Friday's event represented an unusual show of unity by a community that has often been stratified along ethnic, national and even religious lines. African-American, South Asian and Arab speakers all sounded the same themes of pain and anger about the caricatures, initially published by the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. Nearly all also decried the violent reaction in such places as Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan as "un-Islamic" and challenged followers to use the furor to educate non-Muslims about their faith.
"This calamity - look what has come out of it," Wahhaj said. "When is the last time you remember having a collective jumma prayer like this?"
Wahhaj likened the response to the rioting in American cities that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. While King's death was not the cause of the riots, he said, it served as a catalyst because the loss was seen as a symbol of the deprivations suffered by African-Americans. Likewise, he said, the extreme Muslim reaction to the cartoons relates to the political and economic oppression of Muslims in parts of the world. (Courtesy Newsday)

 

 

 

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