Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Parents boycott event
with Muslim speaker

They will not attend the memorial
service for Sept. 11 victims

By Rosemarie Bernardo

The parents of a Hawaii woman killed in the Sept. 11 attacks are refusing to attend a memorial service tomorrow because one of the speakers is a Muslim.

"I just felt it was completely inappropriate and 100 percent offending," said Neal Snyder, father of Christine Snyder.

"It's so distasteful for us," said Neal's wife and Christine's stepmother, Jan. "We're very distraught about it."

Christine Snyder was aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers tried to retake the aircraft from hijackers.

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Initially, the couple accepted an invitation from the governor's office to attend the Day of Remembrance event at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

However, the couple became outraged after they read in a newspaper Saturday that Hakim Ouansafi, chairman and president of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, was invited to speak at the event along with others, including Mayor Jeremy Harris, Gov. Ben Cayetano and Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief of the Pacific Command.

Snyder immediately contacted the governor's office to voice his concerns. Jan Snyder said she and her husband do not condone racial profiling, but said, "I don't feel it's appropriate for a Muslim priest to speak at the event in front of all the (victims') wives, fathers ...

"We haven't come to the point of forgiving them yet. Maybe that will come in time."

Ouansafi responded: "It's obvious from her statement that her and her family are still suffering, as are many of us. It saddens me to hear such comments, but it also gives me the resolve to go out there and talk and educate people more."

He added, "Islam teaches us to have love and compassion for people who even hurt you."

"There will come a day, I am confident, that she will see a difference."

Francis Lum, protocol officer at the governor's office who helped send invitations to the victims' families, said military officials from the U.S. Pacific Fleet Command organized the event's speakers.

Lt. Col. Marcella Adams, U.S. Pacific Command spokeswoman, said their intent was to hold a memorial to honor those who were killed and injured on Sept. 11 and "to pause and pay respect to the families, a lot I know who are still suffering."

The ceremony is also to pay homage to the thousands of victims from 80 nations who perished that day, Adams said.

Instead of attending the ceremony, Jan Snyder said she plans to sit on a bench at Magic Island that was dedicated to her stepdaughter by city officials last year.

Members of the Outdoor Circle, with whom Snyder worked, and the city have completed a tree planting project at Magic Island that Christine Snyder started.

"This is where her heart beat," Jan Snyder said. "Pennsylvania is where her heart stopped."

E-mail to City Desk


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