On February 13th the Islamic Circle of North America Relief held a fundraising banquet at the Yorba Linda Community Center.  The event was entitled “Our Responsibility Towards Our Neighbors“, and the proceeds were to go to ICNA Relief projects including disaster response and relief, women’s housing, hunger prevention, family counseling, medical aid, emergency financial support, and funeral and burial assistance.

A tea party/Glenn Beck 912 group called “We Surround Them” organized to protest the event.  The protest was also attended by several members of elected office, both at the local level and Congressmen (all Republican).  One of the elected officials went so far as to imply threats against the lives of the families within the fundraiser, stating ““I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists (i.e. organizers and attendees) to an early meeting in paradise”  The following is a video of what took place:

As you can see, Muslim families, including women and small children arrived to find the crowd yelling hateful slurs and swearing.  One mother described her child as terrified, saying

“My daughter was so frightened that she just didn’t say anything. She was really terrified because she did realize that these people were against us. As soon as we got out of the car, people started taking pictures and started shouting, there was so much noise,” she says. “My 2-and-a-half-year-old boy who was sleeping got up and started crying.”

This “We Surround Them” group is not much different than the Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist group, who protest military funerals.  Fred Phelp’s group goes around the country saying very inflammatory things in an attempt to have their rights violated in some way, so that they can bring forward a lawsuit and make money.  This “We Surround Them” group also use inflammatory language, not in an attempt to make money, but to induce a physical reaction by Muslim men, which they can use as “evidence” for their claim that they are not living here with peaceful intentions.

I am a pretty peaceful man, but I can say, I’m not sure I would have had the same level of self restraint shown by the men attending the event if similar things had been shouted at my wife and kids.  It would be pretty understanding, even expected, if these events erupted into fistfights, but again, that is part of the reason the protesters are there, to stir the pot.

Not only was the response by the Muslim families civil during the protest, it remained so afterwards. Waqas Syed is a long time resident of Orange County and the current Deputy Secretary General of ICNA, released a statement located on the ICNA website:

What’s most disturbing is not the protest itself or the ignorance expressed; in fact we at ICNA fully affirm the right of protesters to free speech. What should be of real concern to Orange County residents is the lack of civility displayed on their own front lawns.

To protesters, I remind you that prejudice and fear mongering will simply incite hatred. It is only through civil dialogue that we will be able to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and peace. We must leave bigotry behind and work toward an Orange County that promotes cooperation, collaboration and respect for one another and ultimately upholds the American values of inclusion and fair treatment. The future of our nation depends on these principles, as our children will belong to a more diverse and multicultural society than our own. They will need to learn respect and tolerance to coexist with their fellow Americans, and the responsibility to teach them lies with us; what will remain of these honorable traits if they are already in such short supply?

As an American and a follower of Jesus, of Isa al Mesih, I apologize to those Muslims who attended the event and to anyone who has been offended by the events that took place there.  The actions of those individuals was abhorrent.  I love living in a country where we have the freedom of speech, and look forward to a time where more people stop and reconsider before filth streams from their lips in an attempt to hurt others.  I’m sorry.

I will end by quoting from the injeel, the gospel of Matthew (5:9): “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  May we seek to be the peacemakers that Jesus teaches us to be.

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