Islam Day Draws Heat for Isles

May 15, 2009

Author: Susan Essoyan

Source: Star Bulletin

Hawaii already designates April 8 as Buddha Day and March 21 as Baha'i New Year's Day. Good Friday is even enshrined as an official state holiday, with public offices closed.

So state Rep. Lyla Berg thought that marking Sept. 24 as Islam Day would not be out of line in Hawaii, with its multicultural fabric. But her seemingly innocuous resolution has attracted worldwide attention -- and a flurry of phone calls and e-mails, including threats to boycott Hawaii.

Passed unanimously by the state House and overwhelmingly in the Senate on May 6, the resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 100, House Draft 1) recognizes the "rich religious, scientific, cultural and artistic contributions" of Islam and the Islamic world. It does not have the force of law. Congress passed a similar resolution on Oct. 15, 1979, honoring the 14th centennial of Islam.

But in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era, Hawaii's move has touched some nerves. While Berg's office has received many positive calls and e-mails, she said, her staff has also been berated by an equal number, mostly from out of state.

"By acknowledging Islam, there's an assumption that means we support terrorists," said Berg (D, Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina), who introduced the resolution with Rep. Faye Hanohano (D, Pahoa-Kalapana). "I was hopeful we would have an opportunity to become more informed on what the religion is about and the people who are connected with it, so that we don't make the broad generalizations that are happening now."