Corvallis Muslims Condemn Terrorism in Portland
On Sunday, Amir Mohammed Siala brought the healing of my small town of Corvallis, Oregon, full circle to Pioneer Square in Portland—the scene of the recently foiled Christmas Tree Lighting bomb plot.
After the candlelight vigil in Corvallis which was organized to reassure our American Muslim community over the firebombing of the Mosque, Amir Siala was so moved by the response that he wanted to share it with all Oregonians and the world, so he brought this message to Portland where the cycle of violence began.
The story of how our town of 50,000 reacted to violence with love attracted international attention. Members of the Mosque reported that friends and family overseas had contacted them to express joy and thankfulness that Americans had done such a thing. Amir Siala expressed the hope that the world could learn from “our little town with its big people” about how to meet violence with love and forgiveness.
In the best Oregonian diversity-rich tradition, the list of almost three dozen organizations who sponsored this rally included Buddhists, Unitarians, Catholics and alternative Catholics, Jews, Christians, Quakers, the Japanese Americans Citizens League and many more.
Pioneer Square is rightly called Portland’s "living room". The crowd began small but grew as shoppers were attracted to the hand-lettered signs of peace, love and unity that the American Muslim youth had made the night before. Portlanders joined with Corvallis folks to listen to the speakers and stand together in the bitter cold.
What was heard that day as Christmas music floated over the square:
Amir Siala told the crowd that "We Muslims living in the United States of America and throughout the Muslim world would like to declare once and for all that we all reject, abhor, condemn and denounce all forms of terror and violence done to any peaceful people." He told us that he spoke from his heart to our hearts as he called the response to these events in Portland and Corvallis a “victory of peace and love over hate, over terror and over violence”.
A man from the Japanese American Citizen's League spoke to the experience of the Japanese internment during World War II, saying that he and his people knew what it felt like to “have the face of the enemy”.
The Tigard police chief said that “...someone must have the courage to stand up and model a different direction. Someone must have the courage to stand up and model a different path...for the benefit of the common good.”
One Latino man in the crowd said that this rally was, for him, the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.
A man who identified himself as Harvey, a retired US Navy Commander and local leader of the Veterans for Peace group, told me that they were there “to support freedom of religion. The Muslims are getting a bad shake here lately. We are here to support them.”
A Corvallis American-Muslim family reported that, after the bombing, they were afraid and doubted that coming to America had been a good thing. When I asked the mother if she was afraid now, she gave a brilliant smile and said, “No, I am not afraid now.”
One lone pure-white dove flew over the speakers as they addressed the assembled crowd.
Closing remarks by Amir Siala:
“By your coming today, you declared loud and clear that we all stand by each other’s side, protecting each other against all forces of evil, injustice and terror. Most of us do not know each other and what we all share--the same principles, the same goals--and for this you are indeed the friend that I never met before.”
“We should give peace a chance. We should give peace another chance every time we face a conflict. Peace needs time, needs place and needs a land. I sincerely believe the time is now. I sincerely believe the land is this land of the free. And I sincerely believe that this should be coming inside our hearts and the soul--inside the hearts and the soul of peace-loving people, Muslims and non-Muslims.
We all demonstrated today by coming in this cold weather, the cold did not stop us. Long distance did not stop us. Let this caravan of peace, love and unity go to every city and every state to mobilize all people to stand all together united against hatred, against injustice, against violence and against terror.
Let us call our people to work together, to live together in the atmosphere of cooperation and trust. We did it in Corvallis two weeks ago. We did it in Salem last Friday. And we are doing it now here in Portland. And I hope, inshallah (God willing), it will be done in every city in our country and it shall spread all over the world.”
“The journey of a thousand miles starts with only one step. We started the journey and we started it with three huge big steps so let the enthusiasm and victory not fade away from us by time. The journey is long and hard.
We should all work together to continue our mission to bring peace, love, fairness, security and cooperation to all people everywhere regardless of faith, race or nationality. I want to tell you that we already started the journey. We already started breaking all barriers and walls that divide and separate us from each other, to build bridges of communication, of understanding. We already started building the trust and confidence in each other.
People told me “let us open a new page” and I say “Let us open a new book”. That book is based on peace, love, trust, truthfulness and understanding."
My own personal harvest: a young college-aged man I taught when he was a second grader!
All photographs are mine.
Article adapted from newsvine.