New York Rally Protests Ahmadinejad, Dinner Hosts

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Feminists, Christians, gay activists, Jews,
Muslims and human rights activists expressed disgust over the appearance of Iran's President at a Christian-sponsored dinner.
New York Rally Protests Ahmadinejad, Dinner 
[09.26.08] More than 60 religious, human rights and public interest groups put aside
their patent differences Thursday night to stage a major demonstration in
midtown Manhattan protesting a dinner banquet attended by Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that was hosted by various organizations, including Quaker
and Mennonite groups.

Some in the Christian community condemend the actions of those who hosted
Ahmadinejad, especially dinner hosts who called themselves Christians.
Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the Israel-based International
Christian Embassy Jersualem (ICEJ), said Christians playing host and
“shamelessly” honoring Ahmadinejad will “forever be associated with the
appeasement of wickedness.”
“While [we] welcome efforts to de-radicalize religious perceptions and
create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for our differences,” he said, “it
is outrageous that the main guest at this dinner is someone who so thoroughly
mocks and loathes these valued ideals.”
Beth Gilinsky, leader of Women United and organizer of the protest rally,
invited to the demonstration “all human rights activists and religious
organizations and leaders of all backgrounds, faiths, and political affiliation
who find the threats to innocent peoples an affront to morality and Western
Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of Grand Central Station, further
slowing New York’s rush-hour traffic, to clearly articulate their opposition to
Iran’s stated plans for destroying Israel, proliferating nuclear weapons, and
brutally violating Iranians’ human rights.
Michael Hines, a U.S. spokesperson for ICEJ who attended Thursday’s rally,
told Charisma Friday that he was impressed by how well Christians were
The eclectic groups of protesters included: Arabs for Israel, American
Islamic Forum for Democracy, Jewish Action Alliance, Log Cabin Republicans of
New York City, Open Doors USA, Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and
Religious Liberty Commission and Women’s Freedom Movement of Pakistan.
Hines said although some members among the 60 groups protesting held a
natural affinity for one another, many did not. “It’s always tricky when you
have so many different organizations with a lot of different agendas,” Hines
said. “But we were all to put aside our differences. The main focus [of the
rally] was very clearly that this man is a threat to the world.”
The dinner with Ahmadinejad was given the theme: “Has Not One God Created
Us? The Significance of Religious Contributions to Peace.” It was sponsored by
the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central
Committee, the Quaker United Nations Office, Religions for Peace and the World
Council of Churches. 
In the invitation, the inter-faith banquet’s hosts billed it as a
“conversation” about the role of religion in the world and how to better achieve
world peace. Muslim paticipants were encouraged to use the evening to break
their Ramadan fast. “It is our hope,” they stated, “[that] this communal meal
and exchange of views will enable us to explore faith perspectives for dealing
with global issues…while deepening mutual understanding.”
Aside from Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian religious leaders, a black
American Muslim cleric known for long supporting the Iranian regime also
attended, according to The Jerusalem Post. The Anti-Defamation League
describes the ideologies of Imam Abdul Alim Musa as “radical and
Religious groups meeting with Ahmadinejad “are being used to give
legitimacy to one of the world’s greatest violators of human and religious
rights,” stated organizers of Thursday’s protest in Manhattan, in a statement on
their Web site,
“[We’re making] an important statement to Ahmadinejad,” it continued, “the
Mullahs back home in Iran, to our ally Israel, and to the American media and
public, that we protest anyone meeting with him, much less defacto honoring him,
and giving legitimacy to his nuclear ambitions and his dire threats against the
U.S., Israel and the rest of the world.”
Hines said a young Iranian student leader named Amir Abbas
Fakhravar, who was tortured in Iran but later escaped to the
West, addressed the crowd Thursday in Persian. “[Fakhravar] really condemned the
West’s kowtowing to an Iranian regime that tortures and abuses so many people,”
Hines said. “He made it very clear that the best thing the [U.S.] administration
can do is refuse to talk to the Iranian regime.”
Besides Ahmadinejad, other speakers at the dinner included Miguel D’Escoto
Brockmann, president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and Kjell
Bondevik, president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.
Despite Ahmadinejad’s success in attracting heavy media attention during
his week in New York, Hines believes what some have called Israel’s best
friends—Christians—ably demonstrated their strong support and solidarity for the
tiny Jewish nation. “We really feel [Christians] made a stand,” he said. “It’s
not necessarily your job to project your own voice farther than you can project
it. You just have to speak up and make a stand.” 
—Paul Steven Ghiringhelli
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