Interfaith 9/11 Picnic in San Jose Affirms Need for Unity
By Eric Kurhi

San Jose, CA: Standing with strangers in the midst of a field of televisions at Costco 11 years ago, watching multiple images of the falling towers "over and over and over and over again," Samina Sundas felt tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Why are you crying?" yelled a man.

"I didn't answer," said Sundas, a Muslim. "I looked around to see if there was any support, if anyone would say, 'Leave her alone -- she's an American, too.' But there was nobody saying that."

Sundas is executive director of the American Muslim Voice Foundation, an organization dedicated to eradicating fear and hate and fostering relationships between people of different faiths. Tuesday the group hosted a Multifaith Peace Picnic along with Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese in remembrance of 9/11.

Speaking to the 100 or so in the group, Sundas recounted that 9/11 moment in Mountain View.

The man came closer, she remembered, his voice got louder: "I asked you. Why are you crying?"

Her voice cracking at the event in front of the Santa Clara County government building in San Jose, Sundas said she mustered a reply: "Because I have not yet learned how not to care about human beings."

Cortese called Tuesday's event -- sponsored by the South Bay Islamic Association and more than a dozen others -- "simple yet profound." He said many of the people attending were involved in a similar San Jose gathering the day of the World Trade Center attacks.

"They formed a big circle and held interfaith prayers," Cortese said. "People all over took notice."

Ann McEntee, who led a moment of silence at the ceremony, said that the first event was organized by her late husband, longtime human resources director for the county and social justice advocate James P. McEntee -- for whom the plaza where the event took place is named.

She said her husband knew immediately after the attacks that there would be a need to stand together as people of myriad races and religions.

"Jim gathered everyone in this plaza," she said. "He got everyone, all different groups and factions, to show solidarity and unity for peace."

McEntee said the South Bay is fortunate to be as diverse as it is and to have so many advocates working together toward peace, but she said as a whole, society "has a long way to go."

Sundas agreed. She said people remain suspicious of Muslims, and Americans in general tend to isolate themselves and do not even talk to neighbors who look like them.

"Don't use your garage door opener," she said. "Walk outside, talk to people. Get to know their families. I know that if they got to know more Muslims, they would know they are peaceful and wouldn't be afraid." - Mercury News

Abdus Sattar Ghazali adds:

Joined by Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, American Muslim Voice Foundation (AMV) and multi-faith groups and community organizations held on September 11 a Multifaith Peace Picnic to commemorate the 11 th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

The picnic, held at the Santa Clara County premises, drew a large crowd from different ethnic and faith communities.

Zaki Syed amused the audience with a Muslim Hip Hop. Zaki Syed traveled from Sacramento to attend the peace picnic.

Angela Tirado sung the national anthem as the audience stood in reverence.

Ann McEntee, widow of James P. McEntee, led the moment of silence in memory of the people who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The multifaith prayer was an important feature of the peace picnic. Little Imaan Syed (only four years old) surprised the audience with her recitation of the Holy Qur’an. Rev. Dr. Andrew Killie, President of Silicon Valley Inter-Religious Council, offered the Christian prayer. Jian Ying Shifu from the Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale presented the Buddhist prayer.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese was the main speaker. He called the event simple yet profound. Shahnawaz Saighal, President of South Bay Islamic Association and Delorme Mckee-Stovall of the Santa Clara Office of Human Relations, also spoke.

Samina Sundas, the Founding Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice, was emcee of the program. In her concluding remarks Samina said we should honor the 9/11 victims and their families by sowing the seeds of peace and moving all Americans from fear to friendship. “We salute the ‘September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows’ for their dedication and commitment to work for creating peace.”

At the end of the program a free dinner was served by the host organizations.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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