Candlelight Vigil, 9/11 Memorial

by journojames on January 13, 2012

Originally published Sept. 13, 2010

Candlelight Vigil, Photo by JournoJames

Los Angeles Japanese-American community groups held a candlelight vigil last night to observe the 9th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks and to express support for Muslim Americans who have come under attack.

Members from the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR), the Japanese-American Citizens League, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, among others, gathered in downtown’s Little Tokyo, to hold candles and banners in remembrance of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and to bring attention and to oppose the current anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S.

The candlelight vigil of about 150 people also listened to several speakers who expressed their support of Muslim-Americans, including California Assemblymember Warren Furutani of the 55th Assembly District; Reverend Mark Nakagawa of the Nikkei Interfaith Council and the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group, and Aiko Herzig, a former World War II internment camp inmate who eventually worked for the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of Redress Administration.

Japanese-Americans for religious freedom, Photo by JournoJames

A photo was also taken of the group after they assembled themselves to form a human peace symbol. The organizing committee plans to offer the photo as a gift next month to the Muslim-American community.

Aziza Hasan, 30, a Muslim-American who works for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, was one of the observers. “I’m humbled by the Japanese-American community, who are really coming together to light up the darkness with their candles during this really difficult and trying time filled with tension and political divisiveness,” she said.

9/11 Rembrance in Little Tokyo, Photo by JournoJames

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed more than 2,700 Americans, and the outbreak of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the feelings of Islamophobia in the U.S. have been evident with numerous media stories and hate crime reports involving Muslim-Americans. In a recent Time magazine survey56 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of Muslims. Just recently, a 44-year-old New York cabbie was stabbed after the passenger asked if he was a Muslim. And, the Justice Department announced this week several apparent anti-Muslim incidents were being investigated in four states, including California, where a mosque in Madera was vandalized.

Michael Yanagita, a member of the NCRR who helped organize the event, says his organization was concerned that the present climate of intolerance and fear being created against Muslims could lead to the stripping of certain civil liberties and religious freedom for them and felt the need to express these concerns. He said the vigil was important because it was an opportunity to bridge communities together. “People don’t understand Islam and the only things we’re hearing in the press these days are anti-Muslim sentiments. So, we felt the need to present another voice,” he said.

Japanese-American and Muslim-American unity, Photo by JournoJames

The photograph of the human peace symbol, taken at the vigil site, near the Japanese-American National Museum, poignantly intersected time and space. It was exactly there, 68-years ago, that some of the first buses took Japanese-Americans to internment camps. In 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II, the U.S. government forced approximately 110,000 Japanese-Americans to relocate to concentration camps because of its perception of them as a potential threat to national security.

Herzig, when speaking to the crowd, briefly mentioned her experience in the camps and said that those who have been victimized must unite in peaceful fashion and participate in civil discourse in an effort to convince all Americans that the U.S. Constitution guaranteed specific rights that must be honored. She said, “I want to help assure our Muslim brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, that we stand with them and that they are not alone in their struggle.”

A similar vigil is scheduled to be held at the Los Angeles Islamic Center this Saturday at 12 noon.




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