Anniversary: Celebrate service & diversity on 9/11

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11: Sure, you’re familiar with all the angry news swirling around the ninth anniversary of “9/11.” But are you aware of the good news that’s unfolding across America this weekend?


Today, we’re also publishing a story on Acts of Kindness Weekend. We’ve got stories on a Hindu holiday and an Ethiopian/Rastafarian celebration, as well, this weekend. We’re even suggesting a way you can join ReadTheSpirit in spreading good news this weekend, wherever you live aorund the world. But, before you enjoy those stories, here’s an overview of the situation as we enter this weekend:

Nine years have passed since the terrorist attacks in 2001, but for many Americans, the memories of “Nine-Eleven” are still as fresh as ever. Less than two months after the attacks, a resolution was approved that would mark Sept. 11 as an annual day of remembrance. (Wikipedia has details.)

Originally, the day was called Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001; then, President George W. Bush shortened the name to “Patriot Day.” Perhaps because the name was shorter, or perhaps because the word “prayer” was omitted, the official name of America’s observance of Sept. 11 has no religious ties and is a national observance. It’s directed that Americans fly their flags at half-staff today; that a moment of silence is observed at 8:46 a.m.; and—more recently—that citizens volunteer in their communities in memory of the more than 2,000 lives lost in 2001. ( has links to more information, including local ways to get involved.)

Although the official title of today’s observance has no overt reference to faith, religion is inescapably linked to global tensions around 9/11.

A new Post-ABC News poll reported that only 37 percent of Americans have favorable opinions of Islam—making this the most negative split on the question in Post-ABC polls since October 2001. (ReadTheSpirit reviewed these results in a recent article on Eid al-Fitr, an important Muslim observance tied to Ramadan.) Negative attitudes toward Islam have been so potent lately that Time Magazine devoted a cover story to the question, “Is America Islamophobic?”

In this explosive situation, the angry pastor of a tiny congregation in Florida managed to rocket himself into worldwide headlines by threatening to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11—a threat that brought widespread condemnation from political and religious leaders. That pastor was “on again/off again” in his threats as 9/11 approached, leaving U.S. leaders worrying for the safety of soldiers and travelers overseas.

That’s not to mention furious attitudes swirling around a Ground Zero dispute over a Muslim center—a political firestorm that the media-savvy Florida pastor quickly wove into his own threatening rhetoric. On Friday, the Washington Post described the Florida pastor as “the face of … bigotry.” The Post’s Sally Quinn wrote: “There is nothing uglier than religious bigotry.”

But: Take heart! Many are choosing to bridge gaps today—and in cities such as Santa Cruz, Calif., interfaith dialogue groups are gathering to promote religious diversity. (Check out the full article here.) To learn more about Islam and perhaps to spread awarness in your own community, check out “Sharing Islam,” a ReadTheSpirit project devoted to diversity. If you’re more in the mood to read a story from ground zero, click on this story by ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm, written during his recent journey around America.

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