The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 21, 2007

Author's Flight 93 memorial assertions questioned

SOMERSET — Islamic and mathematical experts are questioning a California author who claims that the design of the Flight 93 memorial is a veiled tribute to terrorists.

Alec Rawls, author of the soon-to-be-released book, “Crescent of Betrayal,” contends a proposed arc of trees surrounding the ground where the hijacked plane crashed faces Mecca and that a tower of wind chimes at the entrance is an Islamic sundial for prayer.

“I have difficulty taking it seriously,” said Arthur Goldschmidt, professor emeritus of Middle Eastern history at Penn State. “The pictures I’ve seen made me think it is a rather standard American memorial. You have to try awfully hard to see all those Muslim attributes in the design.

“It sounds like this guy is looking for something to make a point and make a name for himself. If you look hard enough for something, you can find whatever you want.”

Mujahid Ramos, the imam, or spiritual leader, of the Islamic Center of York, agrees.

“I think it’s far-fetched,” Ramos said. “This gentleman is just venting his anger. When people vent their anger, they say and do strange things.

“It’s offensive to the families of the victims of this terrible act. It’s discrediting to them as well.”

Rawls maintains that the midpoint between the tips of the crescent points almost precisely toward “qibla,” the direction to Mecca, which Muslims are supposed to face for prayer.

His claims seem to be backed up by coordinates for the direction of qibla from Somerset that can be found on Islam.com. When superimposed over the crescent in the memorial design, the midpoint points over the Arctic Circle, through Europe toward Mecca.

“A crescent that Muslims face into is called a mihrab. It’s the central feature on which every mosque is built,” said Rawls, who says his book is scheduled to be released next month by World Ahead Publishing.

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