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Demonstrators gather to protest Islam on Sept. 11

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Posted: Monday, September 14, 2009 12:00 am

Henrik Boecken is too young to remember Sept. 11, but he wants everyone to know what happened the day that brought America's heartbeat to a jolting halt.

Boecken, 11, along with 30 other members of the Dove World Outreach Center church, took to the streets to commemorate Sept. 11.

Adorned in their now-famous "Islam is of the Devil" shirts, the group lined up along Newberry Road near the Oaks Mall to voice their position - that Islam is not a religion of peace, but of violence and aggression.

"Every church should be spreading this message but they're too scared to speak out," said Terry Jones, the church's pastor. "This is a Christian nation, It needs to stay a Christian nation."

Jones called Islam a violent and dangerous religion, citing Sept. 11 as evidence.

The protest participants ranged from children whose American flags dwarfed their bodies to adults. They waved giant signs proclaiming "No to Sharia [Islamic religious] Law," "2,993 Murdered" and "Jesus is Not a Liberal."

Many belted out patriotic songs and religious hymns in cadence to the sounds of guitars, tambourines and honking horns.

Jones, whose wife, Sylvia, helped plan and organize the rally, said their message is one of love, not hate.

"We don't yell, scream or cuss. We're not bad people," he said. "We don't hate Muslims. Jesus loves Muslims. It's their religion that we have a problem with."

Boecken said to remain silent on the issue is unacceptable.

"I don't like to stand back and do nothing," said Boecken, who came to the rally with his family, "When I grow up, I don't want to wear scarves and be forced to believe in something that I don't believe."

For the Boecken family, the issue of whether the church's message oversteps the boundaries of political correctness hit home. Martin and Andy Boecken, 15 and 17, were suspended for three days from Eastside High School for wearing the anti-Islam T-shirts.

"You have kids wearing clothes with skulls and naked girls and the teachers don't say anything. Meanwhile, we wear a shirt that just has the initials I.I.O.T.D. and we get sent home for three days; I just don't get it," Andy Boecken said.

The reaction from passing drivers ranged from supportive to furious as church members were given thumbs up and middle fingers alike.

Jones admitted the church's message may be seen as controversial but said that many people, although afraid to stand up, stand beside the church's mission.

"We're not in the political business. We're in the pastor business," he said. "We're here to express the opinion of the Bible and Jesus Christ."

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