On September 11, 2010, at the height of the Terry Jones "Burn the Quran" madness and the New York City Park 51 Islamic Center controversy, I received tens of calls and emails from complete strangers. Apparently they found me online and discovered my association as a member of the American Muslim community and activity in several Muslim organizations. As I talked with each of them or read emails, their message was that they "were sorry!" They "were not a part of this bigotry and ugly anti-Muslim vehemence". They said "This hatred and suspicion is not the America I believe in."
I was touched that complete strangers were reaching out to me in compassion although they were not a part of the Islamophobic rants almost everywhere in America. They, sometimes almost in pain, were trying to distance themselves from the vitriolic national discourse that had become the annual September 11th remembrance. What I recognized from this outpour of love was that Americans who didn't wish to be a part of the discourse felt they had few other options to express themselves. They felt helpless or were unaware of how to participate in another way.
Out of this realization, Project Remembrance Map 911 came to be. There needed to be a way to provide opportunities for people to do something positive and constructive for the 10th Remembrance of 9-11. In 2011, many people are looking to participate in events showing how they reach out to their neighbors, not to demonize them.
Project Remembrance Map 911 is an initiative to mark 2011 to honor America by reaching out in friendship to neighbors and friends; Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of all faiths, backgrounds and cultures. It is a map that displays and tracks efforts of faith, civic and social groups as well as individuals around the nation and the world. Anyone can post an event or virtual call to action. And anyone around the world can see it and join.
Project Remembrance Map 911 uses crisis mapping technology. These tools by Ushahidi were first used for crisis response after the Haiti earthquake. The technology was also instrumental in the Egyptian revolution and as well as now in Libya.
A crisis mapping tool? I guess it depends on your definition of a crisis. For some of us, bracing for the bitterness and anti-Muslim sentiment we dread will be at its peak for the 10th Remembrance of 9-11, the map is one way out of a crisis. There are thousands of efforts already planned to honor the 10th Remembrance, most of us just don't know about them. Now we will.
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