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A hopeful rebuke to hate and Islamaphobia

September 10, 2010, 1:21 pm | Posted by John Gehring

It’s been easy to lose hope and feel pretty dispirited about the ugly nativism and rising anti-Muslim sentiment casting a dark cloud over the nation leading into a weekend when we pause to remember the horrific attacks of Sept. 11. But as we’ve pointed out, the disproportionate media coverage given to a small group of Christians who betray the core values of all faiths, is just part of the story. Dan posted a CNN interview yesterday with Pastor Larry Reimer, a Gainesville minister helping to unite the local Christian, Jewish and Muslim community.

Those of us who recognize that violent extremism will never be defeated with hate and ignorance that demonize entire religious communities will also find inspiration in the moving story of two women who lost their husbands in the World Trade Center. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tells their moving story in this op-ed, The Healers of 9/11.

This weekend, a Jewish woman who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks is planning to speak at a mosque in Boston. She will be trying to recruit members of the mosque to join her battle against poverty and illiteracy in Afghanistan. The woman, Susan Retik, has pursued perhaps the most unexpected and inspiring American response to the 9/11 attacks… In the shattering aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Retik bonded with another woman, Patti Quigley, whose husband had also died in the attack. They lived near each other, and both were pregnant with babies who would never see their fathers. Devastated themselves, they realized that there were more than half a million widows in Afghanistan — and then, with war, there would be even more. Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley also saw that Afghan widows could be a stabilizing force in that country. So at a time when the American government reacted to the horror of 9/11 mostly with missiles and bombs, detentions and waterboardings, Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley turned to education and poverty-alleviation projects — in the very country that had incubated a plot that had pulverized their lives. The organization they started, Beyond the 11th, has now assisted more than 1,000 Afghan widows in starting tiny businesses. It’s an effort both to help some of the world’s neediest people and to fight back at the distrust, hatred and unemployment that sustain the Taliban.

It’s heroic women like these who embody the best of American values. Their courage to weave the raw strands of anger and grief into a stunning tapestry of hope offers a stark rebuke to those sad examples dominating the news cycle these days. Next time you read another story about fanatics planning to burn Korans or the growing backlash against mosques in communities across the country remember these women and disciples of the Good News like Pastor Larry Reimer.

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