Packing the Mosque for Peace

You couldn't pick a worst time than Dec. 23 to plan a vigil in defense of human rights. But last-minute Christmas busyness yielded to multicultural outrage after last week's bombing of the Islam

 
Cameron Knight


Abdel Siyam (left) of Clifton and Nasser Sumar of Florence respond to a call to shake hands with other participants at an interfaith prayer vigil at the Islamic Association of Cincinnati mosque. Speakers included leaders of Christian organizations, Tibetan monks, representatives of the Jewish faith and Muslims from other mosques around the area.



You couldn't pick a worst time than Dec. 23 to plan a vigil in defense of human rights. But last-minute Christmas busyness yielded to multicultural outrage after last week's bombing of the Islamic Association of Cincinnati's mosque in Clifton. Less than 48 hours after the attack, about 300 people showed up for an interfaith vigil in support of the area's Muslim community. Rabbi Abie Ingber proudly contrasted the city's response to the bombing with the silence that greeted Kristallnacht, a state-sponsored pogrom in Nazi Germany in 1938. Gary Wright, president of the gay-rights lobby Equality Cincinnati, also hailed expressions of solidarity across religious lines. The FBI and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have offered a combined $20,000 reward for information on the perpetrator.

But shocking though it was, even absent any injuries, the bombing should be seen in a larger context. Vandalism and other possible bias-related incidents have recently occurred at mosques in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Nebraska, California and New York, according to CAIR. But the problem of hate crimes is likely worse than we know, Wright says.

"Hate crimes in our region, and indeed hate crimes nationally, are under-reported," he says.

"Cincinnati reported only 13 hate crimes to the FBI in 2004. Compared to 123 in Columbus — a difference far too great to reflect real differences in these kinds of crimes."

Of the 13 local incidents, 11 involved racial bias and two were based on sexual orientation, Wright says.

One segment of society that is commonly degraded and shunned is homeless people. Groups in 125 cities across the United States observed Dec. 21 as National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day, paying homage to homeless people who died in the past year. The local roster numbered 16 people, remembered by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless in a vigil held at Washington Park. Their names are:

Misty Blue G. Winner, Michael G. Stamper, Mark Young, Clarence Stallworth, Noble Jones, Richard Gaither, Clark Watson, Charles Chapman, Jerry Swago, Ronald Parham, James Conyers, Juan Taylor, J.D. Brickins, Robert Lipton, Alice Pugh and Andrew Williams.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week announced $9.4 million in grants to local agencies serving the homeless. The local grants are among $1.33 billion in funding for HUD's Continuum of Care programs and emergency shelter grants announced last week. Local recipients include Lighthouse Youth Services, Tender Mercies, the Center for Independent Living Options, Tom Geiger Guest House, AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, the FreeStore Foodbank, the Cincinnati Department of Community Development and Planning and the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services.

Huffing and Puffing in Clifton and City Hall
Soon a dense cloud of burning tobacco will no longer waft onto Ludlow Avenue when patrons open the door at Sitwell's Coffee House. Alas even Sitwell's — where the happy aroma of cigarettes of the full flavor, light, ultra light and menthol varieties has long accompanied pleasant hours spent in reading, drinking and good conversation — is becoming a non-smoking establishment beginning Sunday.

"After months of consideration and informal surveys, it was Lisa's personal conviction to make a better community coffee house, a coffee house for everyone," says an announcement from Sitwell's.

The no-smoking rule has been coming for some time; the coffee house months ago declared itself smoke-free until 3 p.m. each day.

Smoke didn't come out of City Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz' office last week, but there was heat aplenty following revelations that a former employee in the Public Services Department has been paid more than $300,000 without doing any work. Ghiz, former chief labor negotiator for the city, couldn't quite fume enough, issuing a press release headlined, in large letters, "Furious Ghiz calls for inquiry into city hall staffing" and declaring the end of whatever problem led to the payment: "This lack of management oversight will stop immediately," she said.



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