Brian Pugh: Unity Trumps Bigotry

9152016-bp-lte-imageTo The Editor,

At Sunday’s 9/11 Memorial Ceremony at Croton Landing, as I sat with Mayor Dr. Greg Schmidt and Trustee Ann Gallelli, I was struck by how speaker after speaker recalled the sense of unity and common purpose in days after 9/11. Although I was only a high school student at the time, I too remember a bipartisan commitment to tolerance and mutual respect for our fellow Americans.

I hope that 15 years later, people of good will remember and continue to speak out for these principles.

“The attacks of September 11 were intended to break our spirit, instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom,” said NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani in December 2001.

“America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country. Every immigrant can be fully and equally American because we’re one country. Race and color should not divide us, because America is one country,” said President George W. Bush, in April 2002.

Yet today, I feel that there has been a tragic turn by some politicians, from the presidential level on down, towards exacerbating xenophobia and pandering to prejudice.

And these words have consequences. “Setting aside moral considerations, those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims should realize they are playing directly into the hands of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The terrorists’ explicit hope has been to try to provoke a clash of civilizations — telling Muslims that the United States is at war with them and their religion. When Western politicians propose blanket discrimination against Islam, they bolster the terrorists’ propaganda,” warned former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus earlier this year.

This rhetoric also emboldens homegrown extremists. Hate crimes in America dipped across the board–except in the category of anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14% percent over the prior year, according to the latest FBI statistics.

I hope that we will continue to keep our community safe and speak out against prejudice when we see or hear it.


Brian Pugh