Sept. 25, 2001 – More than 200 upper school students and faculty at Antilles School and members of the local Muslim community took part in a forum Tuesday to discuss issues of ethnic tolerance in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
Panelists included Antilles students, a counselor, teachers and the Islamic representatives. The goal was to preserve open-mindedness and multiculturalism, according to Michael Harrigan, the social studies teacher at the school who moderated the forum.
"We must continue to exhibit tolerance and respect for all humankind," he said.
People must make a distinction between the religion of Islam, which teaches peace and respect for other religions, and the terrorists who committed the attacks in the name of their religion, said Mansoor Thuneibat, a St. Thomas resident who was born in Jordan and later became a spiritual leader in the Islamic community on St. Croix.
"Islam was hijacked in those airplanes. Those men didn't represent Islam," Thuneibat said. Later, when a student asked what the panelists expected reaction in the Muslim world to be toward American demands that Osama bin Laden be turned over, Thuneibat responded: "We should not permit any criminal in our midst. He should be brought to justice."
Students offered a wide range of questions and opinions. Shana Karlin, a 10th grader, wanted to know what the panelists thought an appropriate U.S. retaliation should be. Lane Sell, another sophomore, said he thought people should put away their flags and what he called "jingoism," and treat the attacks as a human tragedy going beyond national boundaries.
Jill Tyler, a senior and president of the school's student council, said in a speech that history is full of examples of people waging war under the guise of religion. It would be wrong, however, to treat all members of any religion as aggressors simply because others are making war in their god's name, she said.
"How can you condemn an entire group?" she asked. "The men who hijacked those planes distorted the words of the Islamic faith."
Favinn Maynard, a sophomore on the panel, invoked the example of placing Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II to show what can happen when whole ethnic groups are lumped together as scapegoats. "We are the human race, and it's time for us to take the next evolutionary leap," she said.
Harrigan said he hoped Tuesday's forum would be the first in a series at Antilles School to discuss topics that are shaping life in the Virgin Islands.


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