Citizens gather to discuss September 11 |

Citizens gather to discuss September 11

Gregory Crofton

A nun in full garb is a woman thought to have devoted her life to God. An Islamic woman in full garb is believed to be a victim of oppression.

That misconception zeroes in on part of America’s problem, said Abdul Barghouthi, of the Islamic Center of Reno, a speaker at a community forum in South Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Barghouthi said a lack of knowledge about Islam and biased U.S. foreign policy has created fertile ground for terrorism in America.

“Why do we have a royal family in Saudi Arabia that we support with 60,000 troops?” Barghouthi asked. “Why do we award tanks to countries after we sign peace treaties with them?”

Barghouthi was critical of American foreign policy but he praised its democratic foundations.

“It is a way of life in America; it’s justice, equality, people treated well. A president who is not immune to the justice system just like a 7-Eleven clerk. That’s what brought me to America 23 years ago.”

Barghouthi spoke at “Understanding September 11,” a forum that drew more than 100 people to the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center.

Reason and cool heads reigned at the two-hour forum. Some called to end the bombing of Afghanistan; to create a smarter foreign policy; and for Americans to show increased tolerance and educate themselves about Islam and its followers. Others supported the bombings saying that America should not blame itself for the acts of Sept. 11.

“Don’t blame America. It is the fanaticism brought into the Islam,” said Nina Ingris, a native of Czechoslovakia, who has lived at South Shore since 1972. “I’m very sorry we had to sacrifice 6,000 people to bring back patriotism in America. It went down, down, down, but now you are flying your flags. I’m very proud to be an American.”

George Drake, a math instructor at Lake Tahoe Community College, said he hoped the attacks would prod citizens into paying closer attention to what the federal government is doing.

“My specific suggestion is that we should use this crisis, this war, as a reason to reveal our entire stance on international law,” he said. “America needs to recognize other nations as equals. We are on top now, but we won’t necessarily be on top in 50 years.”

The conflict is still murky to Joan Walthall, a resident of South Lake Tahoe for four years, who told people to collect information for themselves instead of getting it from CNN.

“Like all of you, I’m horrified by the events in New York and Washington,” she said. “I think I’m still processing it. Perhaps under the flag of patriotism we are really not being objective. In particular, I’m bothered by the bread and bombs. To me, it’s a surreal approach. You can’t simply accept everything being said, you have to take an objective view.”

Steve Goldman, an employee of the California Tahoe Conservancy and main organizer of the forum, advocated a different kind of information gathering. He believes a solution to the problem lies in public discussion.

“When I turned on the TV and saw what our leaders were saying I saw a lack of wisdom being expressed. I believe we need to help our leaders find a way out of this mess. This is a hard thing to figure out. We need to have meetings like this over and over and deliver that information to our leaders. That’s how we’re going to get out of this.”

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