WARNING: This post is my first attempt to tell this particularly emotional story. It is replete with errors that are corrected in the newer, revised version of this posting. Click here for the NEW and FACTUAL story:
If you decide to go ahead and read this post here, then compare it with the revised, factual posting (written a few days later). That way you’ll see the interesting way that people (including me, LordFlea) can get the simplest of facts all screwed up, even with the best of intentions. It makes for an interesting contrast, to read post this post and the above linked one.
Nice to see you, reader! In Light, teZa Lord (Lord Flea)
HERE’S THE POST with a few but pertinent facts incorrectly reported …. please read knowing this. It’s still an intriguing story, nonetheless.
For weeks I’ve been waiting for a follow-up reporting of the peaceful resolution between the recent angry demonstrators who thought it prudent to make our local Islamic Community here in my hometown, uncomfortable as they worshiped at their Mosque on Route 207 over a month ago. No St. Augustine Record reporter ever did, no other individual wrote a letter, either. So I, merely a concerned citizen who witnessed these events, will do my best to tell the real story here. I’ve waited this long because I was hoping the Record would recognize real NEWS, and do their job of following up. but I figure with the 450th Celebration of our town’s founding that everyone was embroiled in for the past weeks, after literally years of planning leading up to it, there was no room for any other news but the commemorative party’s other than murder, refugees or rape. But now it’s business as usual in our community.
Our citizens deserve to know the wonderfully peaceful resolution of a potentially volatile conflict that was solved through human compassion alone. This story demonstrates the power of open and direct, peaceful communication.
Before I get into details though, I find it sad that conventional media only thinks sensationalism sells. is worthy of what to print or share. A peaceful resolution ought to be as important as–well, the aggressive threats that originated from the demonstrators that made such splashy FRONT Page Headline NEWS, like the one our paper printed just days before the peaceful conclusion was made that I’m reporting here. Sadly, this astounding, sensationally newsworthy item–a peaceful resolution–was never reported by the Record. Not that I noted or was told of at least.
Loud and clearly, however, the protester’s angry threats appeared on the Record’s front page, back in early August, when incensed demonstrators carried such awful and ugly signs that claimed incendiary and fabricated nonsense, as they shouted accusatory statements, fearing the Islamic religious folks’ untrustworthy intentions. The Record did not mention, however, the truth in their original article. That these Islamic worshipers being picketed are guilty of only one thing: peaceful love for Allah, as God’s name istranslated in the Arabic language (just as Dios is in Spanish, Dieu is in French, etc.). The Record only reported the conflict started by the demonstrators’ suspicious anger. Which unfortunately, translates as News to Editors.
As a result, we ordinary folks—of interfaith religions or no formal beliefs other than Compassionate Love–we showed up to protect our Islamic brothers and sisters’ American right, their human right, to worship as they please. We practice the Golden Rule, you see. All of us demonstrating believe that we do as we would want anyone else to do toward us, as many of you do, too.
Consequently, there WAS no show down. Why? Perhaps because the Record exposed the demonstrators’ clear lack of compassion, and showed instead, their unfounded, angry intent and harmful accusations.
To me, the lack of a more violent confrontation is obviously the reason why the Record lost interest in this story. Clearly, it deserves a follow-up. Peace is more important than conflict, in my book. And for those of us who prefer to forgive instead of find more excuses to hate or be intolerant: here’s the truth. The truth is what compels me to bring the good news of this peaceful conclusion to light.
We in America love our Freedom more than anything. It’s our national right to express how Freedom is for each of us, as long as we don’t harm anyone else. Freedom of speech and religion is protected by our Constitution. Some people, like the demonstrators in this story, think they have the right to deny others’ freedom, while hypocritically waving their HUGE American flags in other people’s, other Americans‘ faces. Well, maybe they do. But I, too, have the right to discuss the hypocrisy of ignorance these folks represent. And more people ought to follow my suit, forgive my audacity for saying so.
This is a story worthy of another FRONT page banner, to prove how celebratory a city we truly are, here in St. Augustine. All the birthday cakes and singing of bands and merrymaking and fireworks won’t take away the bitter aftertaste of a small group of misguided people who terrified the entire Islamic congregation here, unless the truth is known. Any who live within the USA’s jurisdiction lives under the rights of our Constitution, to worship and speak out as we see fit. As long as no one is harmed.
THE RESOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT:
A large group of we lovers of Freedom arrived, responding to the call for help from our Islamic brothers and sisters, after the Record exposed the increasingly aggressive nature of these flag-waving anti-Islam demonstrators. The police as well, were asked to be there for the next worship-gathering, to protect the Muslim worshipers.That very next day of Muslim observance, was tense. Women and children from the Islamic community were told to stay home that Saturday in early August. As carloads of us anti-demonstrators arrived to protect those Muslims who braved the flag-waving demonstrators, so they could worship in peace inside their Mosque, we saw them beginning to relax and smile, more broadly with each carload of supporters, so happy to see our impressive turnout.
Our number of compassionate, peace-loving folk was ten times stronger than the meager show of demonstrators. We came in carloads of individuals who had heard of the urgent call to help our Islamic neighbors.
On Route 207, the Stars and Stripes-waving demonstrators were only 6 in number. Perhaps most of the demonstrators decided to stay home that Saturday, after seeing the front page Record article. Perhaps they realized that being associated with the two demonstrators who’d been singled out to be photographed—holding signs claiming the peaceful Muslim folks’ religion was “666” and “Islam is of the Devil”—would horrify anybody’s sense of common decency. Perhaps the demonstrators who didn’t show finally remembered our country’s tradition of welcoming all worshipers, no matter what different Name for the Almighty was used, or religion, or denomination they were, as our founding fathers, the Pilgrims, were when they assured us citizens that our spiritual right to freedom, as Americans, was guaranteed—by law.
We supporters of any person’s’ right to worship, even in different ways than ours, we stood peacefully outside the Mosque, in silence. We carried no signs. We proudly bore only the Love we have for Freedom that we hold sacred, deep within our hearts. The anti-Islamic folks, loudly pacing the sidewalk, carrying over-sized American flags, stayed outside the Mosque’s fenced grounds, so passing cars could see them protesting the Muslims. Ironically, the same constitutional rights the protesters were claiming (free speech) was done in protestation against other people’s right (to worship); two rights all on US soil have, the same for everyone.
Soon though, after our legions of support arrived at the Mosque—fortified with our lemonade and chocolate cake to share with the demonstrators—the temporary Iman, officially known as “the representative of the Islamic Center,” a man I’ve known for over 30 years as the owner of a pizza shop, walked out to peacefully greet the leader of the demonstrators. The white-robed Iman was accompanied by a white-haired volunteer female mediator, a non-Muslim. The Iman identified himself and invited all the protesters to come inside the Mosque and join the Islamic worshipers and their supporters, in prayer, or just to see for themselves what “was going on inside here.”
The demonstrators in our small town had, what felt to most of us anti-demonstrators, out-of-proportion paranoia. Their unfounded fears baffled all of us who showed up to protect and support our Islamic neighbors.
The Iman’s kind invitation to the demonstrators was refused. The reason why the demonstrators would not join us inside the Mosque is the Big News of this posting of mine.
The head of the demonstrators told the Iman and the go-between for the two groups, saying that we never go anywhere we can’t take our concealed weapons. The sheriff had told the mediator that the demonstrators “were carrying and had a permit for concealed weapons,” so she mentioned that the Mosque was a weapons-free zone. They said they couldn’t go anywhere they couldn’t take their weapons.
This shocking fact was bad enough when we from the compassionate-camp found out, the next day. But when the demonstrators’ beef was finally made known, told right then and there on the day of the demonstration, to the Iman and the mediator, no one in our compassionate group could believe it! No one ever really knew what their real issue had been. Even the Record’s front page article never mentioned it. The paper just reported people demonstrating, never really mentioning about what.
The demonstrators feared radical teachings of terrorism were being preached inside our town’s sweet and humble, religiously observant and orthodox Mosque. Because you Muslims don’t fly the American flag on the outside, the head demonstrator gruffly stated to the Iman and the mediator.
When the mediator asked the demonstrators if “waving the US Flag” would settle their fears, showing the St. Augustine’s Islamic community’s solidarity with the Freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution—they said “Yes.” The Iman immediately responded, “Of course! We’ll be happy to fly the Stars and Stripes. No problem! Why didn’t anyone just ask this of us before?”
A sad note to the otherwise breath-relieving solution of this was the manner in which the leader of the demonstrator insisted the Islamic Center fly the specific flag presented to them when they met that next Saturday. The mediator, also in attendance at the flag-presenting, noticed that the flag presented had its grommets place in such a way that it would fly upside down. This, according to the US Flag Code, means … “a signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” The mediator noticed the flag was not properly rigged for flying in proper alignment, and, together, with the Iman, asked the leader of the demonstrators. They were told that it was a special sign of respect to fly it upside down, signifying that a soldier had been killed. The mediator objected saying passers-by would not understand or know this. The leader did not want to give the Islamic Center a regular flag but the mediator insisted and traded the upside down one for a regular flag. The demonstrator leader wasn’t happy and later told the mediator she had stolen her flag. The Muslims put up the regular flag, one of two the demonstrators insisted on bringing themselves, but swapped it for a regular one they purchased themselves the very next day.
The Muslims took a picture of their flag the next day and sent it to the demonstrators. And … they called off their demonstrations henceforth. The best part of all, to this story, and any story where non-violent, loving compassion is the solution instead of more violence—is that now the Muslims are feeling more a part of our local community. Whereas before, they kept themselves very isolated mostly out of fear of being misunderstood or harassed religiously and politically.
The Iman did not mention to the demonstrators (but I must here) that there is no US flag flying outside any Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal or Baptist Church in St. Augustine, nor the Jewish synagogue, neither any Buddhist nor Hindu temple nor Unitarian Universalist or Center for Spiritual Living that I know of. In America, church and state are supposed to be separate, right? But the Iman, a kind and agreeable person who has always flown the American flag over the Coke dispenser at his pizza joint since I first met him decades ago, agreed to this preposterous demand, in the name of wanting to make peace. And peace was made, even though the Iman did what I’m sure most religious leaders in America would never agree to.
I hope my telling the truthful resolution about this story does not incite any more unfounded anger. But the truth needs to be heard. It would have been more PC, more professional, and probably way less emotional had the Record reported this.
This is NEWS in the biggest, most thrilling way possible, the easy and peaceful resolution of our small town’s very own possibly-combustible show-down of faith vs. freedom. If it weren’t for the coming together of so many of us, who believe in Compassionate Love as the only real answer to all of life’s woes–political, religious, and personal–perhaps there might have been a more violent outcome. And THEN you’d surely have read of it earlier, in a timely fashion, reported by a real journalists in the St. Augustine Record.