The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 8, 2005

Flight 93 memorial challenged

Crescent is Islamic symbol, local preacher contends

Somerset — A well-known Somerset County street preacher is vowing to fight the design of the Flight 93 National Memorial, contending that its dominant use of a crescent pathway is a symbol of Islam.

The Rev. Ron McRae said Thursday attorneys for Street Preachers Fellowship in Lancaster will look into obtaining an injunction to stop the design from proceeding.

“The crescent is as much connected to Islam as the cross is to Christianity,” said McRae of Conemaugh Township, self-proclaimed bishop of Bible Anabaptist Church near Jerome.

“This is a memorial to the terrorists who killed those people, not a memorial to the folks who died there innocently,” said McRae, the leader of a small, fundamentalist congregation. “It’s a slap in the face.”

Called “Crescent of Embrace,” the design by Paul Murdoch Associates of Los Angeles centers around a mile-long semicircle of red maples surrounding the point of impact, where 40 passengers and crew were killed when the hijacked plane crashed near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. The four Islamic hijackers have been connected to al Qaida.

Though not accepted by all Muslims, the crescent moon and star is an internationally recognized symbol of Islam. It is used on flags for Algeria, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and other Muslim countries.

The symbolism was not lost on the jury that recommended the final design, which was approved by the Flight 93 Advisory Commission Wednesday in Washington.

Buried deep in its report, the jury wrote in a list of recommendations that planners should rethink the word crescent.

“Consider the interpretation and impact of words within the context of this event,” the jury report said. “The ‘Crescent’ should be referred to as the ‘circle’ or ‘arc’ or other words that are not tied to specific religious iconography.”

Fouad El Bayly of Somerset, leader of the Islamic Center of Johnstown, said he immediately would recognize the symbolism of the crescent in the design.

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