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Hawaii Lawmakers Pass Bill to Create 'Islam Day'

HONOLULU -- Hawaii's state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday to celebrate "Islam Day" -- over the objections of a few lawmakers who said they didn't want to honor a religion connected to Sept. 11, 2001.

The Senate's two Republicans argued that a minority of Islamic extremists have killed many innocents in terrorist attacks.

"I recall radical Islamists around the world cheering the horrors of 9/11. That is the day all civilized people of all religions should remember," said Republican Sen. Fred Hemmings to the applause of more than 100 people gathered in the Senate to oppose a separate issue -- same-sex civil unions.

The resolution to proclaim Sept. 24, 2009, as Islam Day passed the Senate on a 22-3 vote. It had previously passed the House and now goes to Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

The bill seeks to recognize "the rich religious, scientific, cultural and artistic contributions" that Islam and the Islamic world have made. It does not call for any spending or organized celebration of Islam Day.

"We are a state of tolerance. We understand that people have different beliefs," said Sen. Will Espero, a Democrat. "We may not all agree on every single item and issue out there, but to say and highlight the negativity of the Islamic people is an insult to the majority" of believers "who are good law-abiding citizens of the world."

But Republican Sen. Sam Slom argued that the United States has become too sympathetic toward Islamic extremists.

"I don't think there's any country in the history of the world that has been more tolerant than the United States of America, and because of that tolerance, we've looked the other way a lot of times, and many thousands of our citizens have been killed by terrorists," said Slom, a Republican.

The lone Democrat voting against the bill opposed it on church-state separation fears.

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