Groups prepare repeat rallies from last anniversary

BY ALINE REYNOLDS | As was the case last year, the anniversary of 9/11 will not only reawaken grief among victims’ loved ones; it will also stir up the Park51 controversy once again.

Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative are organizing a second annual “9/11 freedom rally” Sunday at 3 p.m. on Park Place and West Broadway. To counter the groups’ campaign, the International Action Center has organized a Unity and Solidarity rally at 1 p.m. on Broadway and Park Place. The counter-demonstration will then march around City Hall, proceed to Church Street, and end back in front of City Hall.

I.A.C., an international coalition that combats war and racism, is protesting what the group deems to be the recent criminalization of Muslim-Americans. The “anti-Muslim” movement is a particularly dangerous threat, I.A.C. claims, since white supremacist murderer Anders Behring Breivik, responsible for the July 22 terror attacks in Norway, quotes S.I.O.A.’s and A.F.D.I.’s executive and associate directors, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, and in his 1500-page manifesto.

Groups partaking in the I.A.C. march are also protesting the Police Department’s deployment of undercover officers into Muslim neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, as reported by the Associated Press in late August; and the cop’s treatment of Muslims during an incident at Rye Playland, an amusement park north of New York City, late last month.

“Our message is, this campaign of hate is what has to be stopped. When the [Muslim] community comes under this level of attack, it’s important for those who aren’t Muslim to stand up,” said Sara Flounders, co-director of the I.A.C. “Certainly, an Islamic Center has every right to be built at 51 Park Place.”

Park51 quickly became a rallying point for the protestors last year to propagate anti-Muslim sentiments and encourage demonstrations against mosque projects in Staten Island and nationwide, according to Staten Island resident Saeed Shabazz, a member of the Nation of Islam, one of the groups participating in the I.A.C. march. “It seems that the nation’s founding principles of religious tolerance is kind of going out the window with this Islamaphobia,” said Shabazz. “We want to see this broad brush of saying that all Muslims are terrorists stop. The only way to do it is to stand up, put some feet on the ground and confront those who really don’t know Muslims and don’t understand Islam.”

Since converting to Muslim in the late 1960s, Shabazz, an African-American, has experienced his fair share of discrimination. His own mother was intolerant at first of his new religious identity. “There needs to be better communication across the board [between Muslims and non-Muslims],” he said. “In the words of Rodney King, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’”

S.I.O.A. and A.F.D.I., meanwhile, are protesting what they continue to call a “mega-mosque” at Park51. Speakers at the rally will include 9/11 family members Rosaleen Tallon, Sally Regenhard and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton.

Building the community center, they said, “is not an issue of religious freedom, but of resisting an effort to insult the victims of 9/11 and to establish a beachhead for political Islam and Islamic supremicism in New York,” S.I.O.A. and A.F.D.I. said in a joint written statement. “It is crucial to stand for freedom on this 10th anniversary of the heinous 9/11 jihad attacks. We must show the jihadists we are unbowed in the defense of freedom.”

Park51 has is not organizing any public events commemorating the 10th anniversary. A Park51 spokesperson declined to comment on the scheduled rallies.