Martin Luther King Commemoration Preaches Tolerance

By Elise Castelli

Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of tolerance and peace applies to the Sept. 11 attacks, Boston University professor Farouk El-Baz said yesterday in a speech at Metcalf Hall in the George Sherman Union. The commemoration was the last this year in the annual series of events at BU honoring King.

The theme of the commemoration, “A Great World House,” was not only expressed in El-Baz’s speech but also through musical and dance selections performed by the choir of the First Korean Church in Cambridge and the School of Theology’s Seminary Singers. All were aimed to emphasize King’s ideas of cultural unity, love and peace.

El-Baz, the research professor and director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, called King “the greatest man of the last century.” He praised King as a man of “great humanity, who wanted all people to benefit from his activities, not just his own people.”

El-Baz also cited King’s qualities of perseverance, global vision, wisdom and non-violence as signs of his leadership, as were King’s “great charisma and eloquence when speaking to hearts.”

“We should reflect on Sept. 11 and remember what he said about religious tolerance and see what we can do now [to establish the] new normalcy,” El-Baz said.

Osama bin Laden’s desire for power, not the principles of Islam, drove the attacks, El-Baz said. He explained that the teachings of bin Laden and the Taliban “poisoned the minds of young children” and twisted the Koran’s teachings.

“The Taliban’s students are taught by people who really don’t know the religion,” El-Baz said.

El-Baz said his own father was a true Islamic scholar and taught him Islam properly. The Taliban’s principles of violence, isolation and the oppression of women were not present in any Islamic teaching El-Baz received, he said.

“King called for us to continue discussion and give up hate,” El-Baz said.He quoted King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that … [and] hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

The event also drew people from outside the Boston University community. Harvard Law student Lakeytria Felder said she attended the event out of interest in others’ perspectives on King’s message.

“[The speech] was an interesting relation of Islamic history to King’s vision of how communities should be,” Felder said.

Reginald Pryor, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, agreed with El-Baz in his closing remarks when he recalled King’s response to an attack on an Alabama church that killed four young girls. King had said people should not only judge the murderers but also the philosophy that produced them.

Pryor said people should remember El-Baz’s speech when evaluating Sept. 11 regarding the terrorists and their philosophy.

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