09 September 2007

The Muslim Day Parade

Allah hu Akbar!

Yes, we heard that on Madison Avenue this afternoon in New York City at the Muslim Day Parade, two days before we stop to remember the attacks of 9/11 2001.

The march began at 41st and Madison Ave. with a blue tarp placed on the ground in order to allow for the Muslims to get down on their knees and pray. It was a beautiful day today, the sun was shining and it was in the mid to high 80s. The Muslim turnout was not as high as I had expected. The march commenced about 1:30pm – about an hour and a half after it was advertised to start.

I had been debating what to wear to this event now for a couple weeks. When it came down to the march I decided that I wasn’t going to spend money on a new t-shirt, I would make due with what I had. I went with something simple and straightforward. A white t-shirt with the Israeli flag on it. Above the flag Israel written in Hebrew and below in English. I wore my Superman hat, with the symbol filled with the American flag, and my American flag sneakers. I covered all bases.

I arrived at the beginning of the march route and saw many (but not tons) of Muslims milling around. Flags of different Muslim countries were being held along with quite a few American flags (more than I had expected). While waiting for this event to start I came across an Israeli fellow, perhaps in his mid-40s wearing a Kahane shirt and waving an Israeli flag. I went over to speak with him for a few minutes. A few photographers took our picture standing there. Then a few reporters come over to find out what we were about.

First was a free-lance reporter who spoke to the Israeli fellow with the Kahane shirt about what he thought. I had no disagreement about what the fellow said, but rather he came off as a bit crazy. So after the reporter was done with him I stepped over and spoke to him for a couple minutes to expand a bit more on a couple ideas. Of course now after the fact it’s easy to re-think what I should have said, but I’m happy with it. It’s been a while since I’ve needed to give a quote, but I guess I’ll work on that. Alongside the free-lance reporter was an Italian television news crew and another who was working on a Christian documentary.

I was asked if I was protesting, what I was protesting, was I representing a group and could my shirt be taken as offensive. I responded that I was protesting the celebration of a particular religion rather than a country which is a normal occurrence in the city. If we were going to celebrate religion in general that was fine, but America never celebrated one religion to the exclusion of others (assuming that the separation of church and state is important). In addition, this particular religion does not do enough to condemn terrorism in all its forms without a “yeah but”. There must be condemnation. Those were my two main points.

To respond to the question about the Israeli t-shirt being offensive and the other questions, I pointed to my American flag hat and shoes and said that I was by myself and that I was there as an American against terrorism everywhere around the world – in the Unites States, in Israel, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Thailand, where peoples heads are being taken off left, right and center and nobody cares. Again I reiterated that Muslims must come out against terrorism everywhere. I was asked if I supported the war in Iraq and I said yes.

One reporter (I think it was the Christian documentary maker) asked me about the groups who were sponsoring the parade. I said that I believed that CAIR was one of the sponsoring groups. CAIR is one of the un-indicted co-defendants in the trial against the Holy Land Foundation “charity”, which sent money to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. If Muslims want to show that they aren’t terrorists they must stop affiliating themselves with organizations that are associated with terrorism.

After that I stood around and watched as the Muslims lined up to pray. Women were asked to step over to the side of the tarp, they were behind the men. Many of them were veiled completely, or at least had their head covered. What was most interesting was the number of Muslim police officers who showed up to show support. A couple of them were chaplains. They prayed with the group then went on to line up. They marched first with the sign of the American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association. It was interesting that they were placed first, even before the Muslim Day Parade sign itself. There was a statement being made.

There were three floats total. They were of the Kaaba stone in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. I believe that the second was the mosque in Medina and the third is of course the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

I ran into a couple more Jews. One lady from New York, the man a kippa wearing Moroccan. She was impressed that I was wearing my t-shirt and produced a small Israeli flag from her pocket. We ended up talking politics and found that we’re on the same page. We discussed how Jews are absolutely brilliant, but have no sense of self-preservation and how this must be changed. We’ll be in touch.

As I was talking to them, a policeman approached us and asked if we were protesters. I said no. The reason being that I didn’t want to get shoved into a corner or be told where I was required to stand. The policeman looked at me and said that of course we didn’t want any trouble to happen. I said don’t worry,I didn’t want any either, I was there as an individual looking around and walking down the street. I wasn’t with the two people I was talking to, they were also just spectators there to look around.

Then a young man came over to speak with us. First he began with “I have some Jewish friends and I just wanted to know what you were protesting”. He was friendly enough. So I said that we weren’t protesting, we were just watching the action. Who said that we needed to come out and say we were protesting anything anyway? I can’t walk down the street with a flag of Israel on my shirt for the heck of it? He walked back to a couple friends on the street and told them what I’d said.

Something that the lady mentioned I dismissed originally, but now understand what she was saying. She said that the parade scared her. There was no music, no floats other than the three I’ve mentioned, and the chanting of Allah hu Akbar. Everybody looked solemn and serious. As I walked down the sidewalk along with the group I realized that she was right. Where was music? Where were the smiling kids? Why all the chanting?

One little ditty being chanted by fully covered ladies:

We are the Muslims

Mighty, mighty Muslims

We are the Muslims

Might, mighty Muslims

Wherever we may go

People want to know who we are… (repeat)

As I walked further down the street I met up with a fellow John who’d come in special from Washington DC to take part. He was wearing a shirt that had Arabic writing on it with an English subtitle “I will not submit”. Spoke with him for a moment or two. He was with a group called United American Committee.

There were a couple sectioned off areas for protesters. The first area I passed was at 27th and Madison Ave. They were yelling “We will not submit”. It was interesting when the women chanting ‘We are the Muslims’ etc. passed by these people, it became a kind off a chanting match – who could chant louder.

The next block down was the Americans Against Hate group. They had signs along the lines of CAIR supports terrorism, No Sharia Law in America and Free Muslim Women. They also were handing out a flier why there shouldn’t be a Muslim Day Parade.

Across from Americans Against Hate was another group that had a spot along the route. They were called the Islamic Thinkers Society. They had a few signs up (many in Arabic), and one that called the Holocaust a hoax. Another thankfully explained that “Any material presented here are by no means to promote nor incite violence. Our struggle is always intellectual & political through non-violent means.” I felt better about them already. I went over to see what their story was. I heard one of the guys there giving an interview. He was explaining that the industrial-multinational-corporations, the neo-cons and the Zionists were behind a lot of what was going on in the world. He also explained that Islam needed to be left alone, and that history proved that those civilizations that tried to interfere with Islam were eventually destroyed and went on to connect that with the problems on the stock market. I figured there was no reason to argue with him, he sounded stupid enough on his own.

At the end of the parade route there was a stage with speakers. I got there in time to hear that ‘Jihad had been taken out of context’ and that ‘Islam is a peaceful religion’, and that there would be speakers who would hopefully educate those who were there. There were different stalls – some with food, clothes, and books. People were handing out fliers explaining Islam and things associated with it. I haven’t gotten a chance to look through the papers.

It was a fun afternoon. I miss the activity and sparring that goes along with it. It wasn’t as action packed as I thought it might be, but it was worth going, and I’m glad that I went, stood up and hopefully was counted.

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