Oregon, USA
December 01
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Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 21, 2010 10:23AM

Corvallis Muslims Condemn Terrorism in Portland

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Banner and signs at the Muslim peace rally   

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.

Crowd at Portland Pioneer Square for Muslim Peace rally

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.

love, unity and understanding 

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.

Diverse crowd in Pioneer Square 

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.

Hate is not welcome here 

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”.

Islam condemns Terrorism 

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”.

A Muslim American boy holding his favorite sign 

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.”

It was my favorite sign too! 

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 pure white dove flew over us

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."

Reunion with a second grade student of mine--now in college! 

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.

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Thank you, for this piece, O'Stephanie. Amir Siala speaks for me too. I love the sign you were carrying and what a lovely coincidence to see a student of yours now in college! ~R
What an outstanding post. This deserves two EP's!! It is about time this country came together and recognized that being a Muslim is not the same thing as being a terrorist. It's also time that Muslims spoke out against the radicals that have hijacked their religion. If the Muslim leaders across the world did this, terrorism would slow to a crawl. The radical have to recruit and poison the minds of uneducated youths. Muslim leaders speaking out would stop a lot of this. Great Job!

The Amir did a fine job articulating his message of love triumphing over fear and hatred. I included this long quote because I wanted his voice to be heard in its original cadence. He has been working tirelessly to promote understanding around Oregon.

Seeing my student was just incredible. We are now FB friends and will be meeting for lunch soon to catch up. Amazing to meet someone whose mind--when I last saw him--was a child's and who is now an adult. He said a beautiful thing--he said when he first saw my face, he knew he loved me but did not know the time and place.
Hey, Scanman!
I am very happy with the EP. Everything I have written on our local story has landed one--guess my passion makes me write better than usual.
I am definitely on a mission. This rally was such a great message to America which I feel needs to be given a wider audience. It is what we need to hear. Too often, the MSM only goes for the dirty laundry and ignores the news we need.
I really feel that this represents a groundswell of sanity and hope it grows and grows. Seems like when something happens locally, the decent ordinary Americans rise to the occasion and do us proud.
You and your family have a great holiday!
Now THAT my friends is a thing of beauty!!

Thank you O'Stephanie for this glorious post!

Is that a Tilley?

Thanks, Darlin', for the kudos! It is close to my heart.

Yes, that is my Tilley! Wear it everywhere. It was a godsend in the Galapagos! I always have money because of its little secret...
My newer one looks much like yours. My old "floppy" is still goin' strong. I love how meeting another "Tilley" person is like an instant introduction! Anywhere in the world too!

Did you keep the little joke booklet too?
O'steph, your salad went a long way here. This is so wonderful to see.
I'm proud to say I know you here in cyberland. You are most awesome. Congrats on the EP.

LOL I am still using that salad! Equal parts humanity and compassion. (Should do a recipe post soon!) Thanks!

Yes, I kept the "users manual". It really is a cult. I particularly liked the one about the elephant eating a Tilley--twice!
Great write O'Steph. I came to Oregon just 5 years ago and I never looked back. I love Corvallis for their people. They're great folks, to be sure.
The flylooper.

So glad you came. We are actually growing in population--word gets around. The great fishing doesn't hurt either!

Thanks for the kind words.
Thanks for this beautiful post! I plan on sharing it on Facebook since it really is the perfect Christmas story.

I did my MS at OSU and truly enjoyed my time in Corvallis. Glad it is still such a caring, inclusive place.
Thanks, bluesurly!

I think of these posts as my Christmas stories too. A lot oflove in each one.

OSU grads usually remember Corvallis fondly. 50,000+ but it still seems like a small town. Many good qualities and folks.
Absolutely lovely - only wishing I could have been there in person. Just excellent, timely news. :)
I wish you could have been ther too. You would have loved it. So much positive emotion.
I have become a one-woman news bureau since the MSM prefers dirty laundry to the positive stories we all need to have in our lives. OS has been great with EPs and covers and links on Salon! (Thanks, Emily!) Everyone with their FB likes has been overwhelming. Because of all of my OS friends, I am still getting readers for the piece on the candlelight vigil. My local paper, the Gazette Times, has featured my photos and I am making a presence online there. Not much time to get around OS but am doing what I must.
Beautiful! This kind of story is a real gift to us all.
Not much more to be said. This made my heart swell with hope, love and pride. There is a future and it looks OK. Thanks so much for this. Rated
Thanks, bikepsychobabble!

This is my Christmas story and gift to us all.

I treasure your comment. I want to give this story to others to sow seeds of hope in the future.
I am finding as many avenues as I can. Tonight I noticed that aljazerra had a story about the firebombing, so I sent links to my stories of how the town has responded. Our Muslims have said that folks had been calling from overseas and were surprised and happy that we had done this.
“...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.”

Thank you, Doctor Susan.

You have good taste in quotes.
Coming from you, whom I consider one the best intellects on OS, that is high praise indeed.
I am hoping that it will catch on.
Oregon is a unique place within the U.S., people actually care about others and it's manifest in their politics, their daily lives and their writing Steph. And you do it so well.
Boomer Bob!

Thanks. I think we tend to think that most places are like our own when they are not. Have not been in another place really long enough to find out!

Hope you had a great holiday, my friend!
I lived in a small town in Colorado - Durango. One couldn't find a more beautiful place to live, high in the Rocky Mountains. It was so pretty there, cutting your finger on a knife blade was gorgeous. But there was a glaring paradox there. The town’s citizens down to every individual were, well utterly nasty, mean-spirited, sanctimonious jackasses. I worked at the hospital there for 3 years and at the end of that three years, I could still walk the hallways and say good morning to others, even those I worked with, and would receive a sideways glance in passing and not so much as a kiss my ass.

It was an uncomfortable place to simply walk into stores in Durango as well. No one exerted even a bit of effort to provide so much as a modicum of customer service. If one asked questions, it was as if the shop-owners were asked to cut their toes off for the customer.

That was a very odd place, Durango. I miss the physical beauty, but I certainly don't miss the nasties.

I've never encountered such a thing in Oregon.
Boomer Bob,

I shudder at your description of Durango. Such coldness in the halls of a hospital no less!

I have begun thinking about American values--chiefly our cult of Individualism and contrasting that with Indigenous values of Community. I think that this town's attitude and the many problems we have with unthinking people rejecting the health care reform we so need are symptoms of this lack of community feeling.

You and I are well read in Indigenous matters as we have discussed before. For the Indigenous, BELONGING is a value; for Americans, BELONGINGS is a value.

We need fundamental change in order to survive as a nation.
You are so right Steph. A good verbal connection there too.

I've been carrying on some very serious political discussions with a few people and it often comes down to organizing for descent. I brought up a point about how our generation, organized so much, it was almost the "vogue thing to do," but the organizing was too "self" propelled (rights to use drugs, rights to self-expression, etc.). They were all about "me" and not about "us," too many directions and self–centric concepts.

Other than ending Vietnam, all those disparate directions are simply an old memory now. Who would've thought the hippies would be the ultimate over-consumers now?

It's odd, isn't it? We look back and the very life we protested against was, in many, many ways, far better than what we have now - community, belonging, we made do with FAR less than we do now, we helped one another, etc.

How in hell did this happen? It seems that someone got the wrong message somewhere along the way; doesn't it?

During one of the discussions, I voiced the concept of returning to the Native American values and culture and they thought I was nuts and was even accused of thinking "immaturely." Well, it seems we really haven’t progressed beyond “me” yet, does it.
Rated. It would be nice if CNN have this an hour, instead of their latest fear-based rant.

It would seem that the ME culture would be the most immature of all, infant like.

I loved how the Indigenous would insist upon the children being present during treaty negotiations because it would affect them. If we thought seven generations forward, we would haved long range planning rather than short term profits.

Do not know how the 60's turned into us. I guess we dropped out.

Always good to see you.

The state of the press is abysmal. I haver turned myself into a one-woman news service just to get a better picture out there of what is happening on the ground. Our local paper does better than most but their space is so limited to make room for ads and they still hardly make it.
Stephanie, I've been gone for a while and your post makes me so happy I returned. What a wonderful tribute to diversity, humanity and common sense. Now that's the kind of thing that makes me proud to be an American....yeah I said it! :)

LOL You made my day coming back, my friend.

I told my husband that, since all of this has happened, I just feel like my heart has been lifted up.

Cool to say things you thought you'd never have reason to say, eh?


Wish you had been there holding a sign. You would have loved it!