Members of the Central Coast’s varying religious congregations will meet Saturday morning at a San Luis Obispo mosque to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and launch a neighborhood watch project intended to protect Americans against such threats.
The gathering will take place on the ninth anniversary of one of the nation’s most traumatic episodes — the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.
It also is occurring as the national media gives a great deal of attention to a Florida Christian minister’s threat to burn the Quran — Islam’s holy book — and as controversy continues over a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near the former World Trade Center site.
The nation and its religious communities need more mutual understanding and tolerance and less suspicion, according to Rabbi Scott Corngold of Congregation Beth David in San Luis Obispo.
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“Members of the Jewish community have a particular concern with wanting to protect the rights of our Muslim neighbors,” Corngold said. “We understand the vulnerability they’re facing.”
Corngold said there have been burnings of the Torah — Judaism’s holy book — and Jews have been forced to maintain a low profile, as some Muslims today say they feel they must do.
Shirley Bianchi, a former county supervisor who will speak at the gathering, said the United States was founded under the rule of law, not under any particular religion.
“The Bill of Rights guarantees everyone freedom of religion, or no religion,” said Bianchi, a Roman Catholic.
In addition to promoting tolerance and honoring the victims of the 9/11 attacks, organizers hope to launch a religious community-based neighborhood watch program, which they hope will catch on nationally.
Founded by the Muslim community, the program is known as A.L.E.R.T.U.S. — the Alliance with Law Enforcement for the Reporting of Threats within the United States. Its motto is “One can protect many.”
It will “help to raise awareness amongst all Muslims to keep their eyes open to threats not only against their centers, mosques (and) institutions nationwide, but also to remain vigilant to any threats that may be spawned by individuals or groups that attempt to use the Muslim community as a safe haven,” according to an announcement from its organizers.
The hope is to “effectively eliminate any site where violent radicals will feel at ease,” organizers wrote.
They are hoping that other faith communities will join and form a network of “mosques, centers, student groups and businesses nationwide committed to eradicating violent extremism.”