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Interfaith 9/11 service embraces diversity

An important interfaith commemoration of 9/11 was held

An important interfaith commemoration of 9/11 was held at the Long Island Muslim Society in East Meadow. Muslims, Jews and Christians alike got together in a continuing effort to heal and dispel notions of anger towards Muslims. Anan Chaudhry (17) of Manhasset sang a riveting rendition of the National Anthem. (Sept. 10, 2011) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

"Enlarge the size of your tent" and seek common ground, Rabbi Michael White told those assembled for an interfaith 9/11 memorial service Saturday.

Using the words of the prophet Isaiah, White stood before Muslims, Christians and Jews sitting under the same tent in East Meadow and he urged them to extend the size of their dwelling.

Lengthen the ropes and drive the pegs firm, said White of Temple Sinai in Roslyn Heights, so that all groups can come together, not just on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, but going forward.

Such unity, he said, was the best response to terrorists who hurt and divide.

"Our very presence here, today, is testimony to the terrorists' failure," he said. "We cherish diversity of belief."

The message was echoed by imam and reverend alike as more than 200 people gathered behind the ecru-colored walls of the mosque for the Long Island Muslim Society -- which joined with the Islamic Center of Long Island to host the commemoration.

Women dressed in hijabs, long-bearded elders from the mosque and young Muslims filled many seats to show that the country's 9/11 loss was their community's loss too.

"We are gathered here not to celebrate the death of those who perished on September 11, but we are here to celebrate the life and legacy" of those victims, said Imam Shamsi Ali, of the Jamaica Muslim Center.

Looking at the crowd, he said: "This is the country we know. This is what America is all about."

The interfaith event followed a countywide memorial Wednesday that angered some Muslim leaders because no one from their community was invited to speak.

Christians and Jews attended Saturday's gathering, as did East Meadow firefighters and such public officials as acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and Nassau County Legislators David Denenberg and Norma Gonsalves.

Murray said she was there to honor the "legacy of courage, love, hope and renewal" of the victims, survivors and heroes of 9/11.

Among guests in the crowd, several said they appreciated the mosques' gesture.

Saul H. Weinstein, an environmental lab analyst from Hicksville, said he realized he didn't really know much about Muslims.

"I've come to the feeling that I want to hear other voices," said Weinstein, 56, who is Jewish. "If more of us listened to each other, there's a chance there would be a lot less strife in the world."

Ellen Izbicki, a longtime Elmont resident, who is Roman Catholic, thought it a good idea "to come together to honor the good in the world."

Sharif Hannan, 27, an attorney in Garden City, was glad his mosque had opened the memorial service to other faiths -- and was grateful that many attended.

"It's really important to our community," he said. "There are certain elements now in the country who question the Americanness of Muslims, but we also live here. We are Giants fans and Jets fans, and this is our country."

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