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Raina Wallens Headshot

My Husband Didn't Stand for Hate

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This time of year is always
very hard for me. The rapid drop in humidity, the crispness of the air
and clear blue of the sky that prior to September 11
, 2001 could only be described as deliciously
divine now catapult many 9/11 victims and family members, such as myself,
immediately back to the sheer horror of that day nine years ago, and
the weeks, months and years following. The actual anniversary day is
the most harrowing for many. I say "for many," because unlike the
leaders of the organizations protesting what they've coined the "Ground
Zero mosque," I don't claim to speak for all 9/11 family members.
We are an enormous and diverse group, with varied opinions. But for
many, the anniversary can be a day of sacred remembrance, of relived
visceral terror (not helped by the bombardment of crass media coverage),
and of many, many other private rituals and feelings 9/11 family members
have.

Now, if the likes of Pamela
Geller and Robert Spencer, conservative bloggers and founders of an organization called Stop
Islamization of America (SIOA), have their way, the anniversary will
also be a day for their anti-'mosque' rally near Ground Zero. (Notice
I say "near" and not "at" because little details like the truth
actually matter to me.) SIOA, the organization largely responsible for
making the "Ground Zero mosque" a national issue, will seize upon
the opportunity to exploit our devastating losses to promote their agenda
of hate.

Here's an excerpt from a
press release on SIOA's website, condemning President Obama's statement
that Park51 developers have the right to build a mosque on private property:
"This is an issue of national dignity and respect for those who
were murdered at that site in the name of Islam... Where is the Muslim
compassion for the grief and the pain of not just the 9/11 families
but of all Americans?"

Really? Is this "human
rights" organization really concerned with honoring the memory of
my late husband, Blake, and the thousands of others who were killed
on September 11
, 2001? Are they truly outraged over
Park51 developers' insensitivity to my grief and pain? If Geller and
Spencer proceed with their planned 9/11 rally, they are doing exactly
what they accuse the Park51 backers of: showing an utter lack of sensitivity
to the emotions of 9/11 family members and victims. If you want a true
picture of how sensitive Pamela Geller is to 9/11 family members, read
how she describes
her horror
at not
being able to run a bus ad with an image of the burning towers and a
plane about to strike. She filed a lawsuit and the MTA has consequently
agreed to let her run the ads, which may be legal, but are sensational
and completely insensitive to the fact that many 9/11 victims and family
members might not want to glimpse those painful images on their morning
commute.

I know there are 9/11 family
members who are opposed to the development of Park51, and of course
that's their right, as it's also their right to speak out against
it. When I first heard about the mosque (and not everything I heard
was true), a tight, prickly knot rose in my throat. I wondered why anyone
would want to build a mosque so close to the World Trade Center site.
I questioned the motives of the developers. But the more I read about
Park51 and its backers, the clearer it became to me that their decision
showed immense naiveté and their planning displayed a poor sense of
judgment. Regrettable? Yes. But not reprehensible. Like many New Yorkers,
part of me wishes that Sharif el-Gamal had never come up with the plan
for this location in the first place. But also like many New Yorkers,
I understand the city's, and the neighborhood's, geography. The
proposed Park51 building is two blocks from the World Trade Center site
- there is already a mosque four blocks away. What's more, Imam
Rauf has been leading prayers at this very location for months. And
of course, the backers have the legal right to build Park51. Which,
in the name of accuracy, is planned to be an
Islamic community
center with a mosque within

(sort of an Islamic JCC or Y), and not an
"Islamic
supremacist mega mosque,"

as others would have you believe.

What is reprehensible
is fomenting and perpetuating the same type of bigotry and hatred that
fueled the terrorists to kill my husband. I'm flabbergasted as I read
websites like
SIOA and Atlas
Shrugs
. How can
Geller pass off her hate-fueled hyperbole and lies as facts? (If there's
any doubt that my question is rhetorical, please note that one of Pamela
Geller's great claims to fame is her propagation of the claim that
President Obama
might be the illegitimate son of Malcolm X
.)

Although she was once a marginal
figure,
Geller
has now attracted a national and international audience and has achieved
some mainstream notability, or at least notoriety.
The planned September 11
rally will have not only Pamela Geller in attendance, but also the truth-seeker
Andrew Breitbart (of
Shirley
Sherrod edit-and-splice fame
)
and Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders (who proposes taxing Muslim
women who wear head coverings,
wants
to ban the Koran
,
and was banned from entering the UK for a period in 2009 because he
was seen as "a threat to one of the fundamental interests to society").

All of the anti-Park51 rhetoric
is filled with concern for 9/11 family members, and an insistence on
honoring the memory of the people that died that day. If that were really
their mission, these "concerned citizens" wouldn't come anywhere
near the World Trade Center site on the 9/11 anniversary. There have
been rumors, but none that I've been able to substantiate, that some
Park51 supporters plan to hold a counter rally on the anniversary, which
I would oppose for the same reasons as stated above. It should also
be noted that while at least two 9/11 families groups have publicly
stated their opposition to the anti-Park51 rally on September 11,
members of another 9/11 organization plan to attend it. As I said, we're
a diverse group, which is why no organization should purport to speak
for all of us. Blake was, amongst many other things, a man of great
integrity, intelligence, and acceptance. Associating him with extremist
movements like SIOA and their false claims and bigoted attacks is an
insult to his memory.