- A woman in my office is ethnically Pakistani. She was raised in Ohio and looks as American as any other 20-something woman, except that she looks, and is, South Asian. Apparently that's enough for her to be guilty of some part of Tuesday's horrific events.
She felt the need to ask another co-worker to walk down and get lunch with her today. That other co-worker was appalled by the stir Shamila caused, just by looking Middle-Eastern. She was stared at, sometimes viciously, and some people made derrisive comments. I can't imagine how bad it must be like for people who look "less American."
This makes me incredibly angry, that people can be so ignorant, so hurtful at a time like this. How can such a blind need to assign blame and get vengence be constructive? Have we not learned from our experience with the Japanese internment camps during World War II? And why did we not turn against all white males after Timothy MacVeigh and Terry Nichols were discovered to be behind the Oklahoma City bomb? The racism and hypocricy of this sort of reaction infuriates me.
Don't get me wrong. I can't for a moment excuse the actions of the hijackers and their supporters, but I don't see how rash responses will help.
My plea is that we all try to be aware of what is going on around us, and to lend support to both the direct and indirect victims. If you see this sort of harrassment taking place, step in. Let cooler heads prevail.
If you agree with this message, and I certainly hope you do, feel free to forward it around.
For Arab Americans, a Familiar Backlash
Harassment, Threats Prompt Police to Provide Extra Security for Mosques, Islamic Centers
By Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2001; Page A26
Arab Americans throughout the nation woke up yesterday to find bullet holes in their mosque windows,
bricks with death threats attached, obscene graffiti and voice mail blaming them for Tuesday's attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Almost as soon as the name "Osama bin Laden" flashed in the headlines as a likely culprit, Arab Americans
braced for the backlash, which came overnight. By yesterday evening, Muslim groups in the United States
had received more than 100 reports of harassment against women in head scarves, men in Muslim dress or
people who merely looked Middle Eastern.
Although authorities yesterday had named no suspects in the airborne attacks, American Muslim leaders
found themselves rehearsing a drill familiar from past terrorist attacks. Virtually every Muslim and Arab
American group, even those that have resisted repudiating Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel, lined up
yesterday to condemn the attacks on American targets.
Leaders defended Islam as a peace-loving religion and insisted that their hearts and national loyalties were
with America, not with foreign extremists.
Some of their fellow Americans moved beyond suspicion and stereotype. In Oklahoma City, where locals
remembered how Muslims were harassed in the hours after the 1995 bombing of the federal building there,
500 people showed up for an interfaith service led by a Muslim cleric. President Bush also advised
Americans not to rush to judgment.
Still, many cities were not taking chances. In Atlanta and Chicago, police cars were stationed outside
mosques and Islamic centers to provide extra security. Muslim schools in Detroit and Los Angeles closed
for fear of attacks. And a coalition of Muslim leaders for the first time considered asking imams to cancel
Friday worship services or to ask Muslims to pray at home.
Up to six shots were fired at an Islamic center in Irving, a suburb of Dallas. Worshipers arriving yesterday
morning discovered the damage at the center, which is part school and part mosque. No one was hurt.
"It is frustrating," said Abdul Raouf of the center. "We are citizens of this country, and we share in the
sorrow and sadness."
Hazim Barakat arrived at his Islamic bookstore in Old Town Alexandria to find two bricks thrown through
the window, with notes tied to them. One was addressed to "Arab murderers"; the other opened with an
obscenity and "You come to this country and kill. You must die as well."
"To tell you the truth, I expected it," Barakat said. "Because of the media. They have nothing to say except
'Islamic terrorist, Muslim terrorist.' But we Muslims are not terrorists. Those people [the terrorists] are
crazy. We are ashamed of them."
The Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church was shut yesterday and Friday services were canceled
after mosque leaders received threats against the facility.
Other incidents were common. A sign announcing the new home of an Islamic community center near Dulles
International Airport was defaced with profane, anti-Muslim sentiments. The door of a mosque in San
Francisco was splattered with blood. About 300 people tried to march on a mosque last night in suburban
Chicago. And anti-Muslim slurs led to a prison fight in Washington state.
Members of the Islamic community center in Sterling showed up extra early yesterday to get on a bus they
had chartered to take them to a Red Cross center, where they planned to donate blood for victims of the
attacks. They found their hallway spray-painted in thick black letters, several feet tall, spelling out: "Die Pigs"
and "Muslims Burn Forever."
"People should understand, we live here. We didn't do this," said Mohammed Khan, who emigrated from
Pakistan to Sterling 16 years ago.
National Muslim leaders reacted swiftly. A coalition of Arab leaders who had been scheduled to meet with
Bush yesterday and air their complaints about the treatment of Muslims and the American stance on
Jerusalem switched gears and instead mounted a public relations campaign promoting the charitable efforts
Standing outside the Red Cross building in downtown Washington, Arab American leaders found
ever-harsher words to condemn the attacks: "despicable," "appalling," "horrifying," "an act of war," Aly
Abuzaakouk of the American Muslim Council said.
They then announced they would donate blood to "show their solidarity with the victims of the attack," said
Nihad Awad of the Council on American Islamic Relations. For the rest of the afternoon, leaders stood in a
long line outside the Red Cross with Muslim students, some for five hours, to donate blood.
ATTACKS REPORTED AGAINST ARAB AMERICANS, MUSLIMS IN
September 12, 2001 11 PM Eastern Time
CHICAGO--Attacks and incidents of harassment against Arab Americans and
Muslims continue to be reported in Chicago, following the assault on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon yesterday and the crashes of four hijacked
Channel 7 Television in Chicago reported the following information at 10.35 PM
Approximately 350 people, some waving American flags gathered in the Chicago
suburb of Bridgeview and attempted to march on the Mosque at 95th Street and
Southwest Highway. The Bridgeview police commander interviewed on the
television said there had been some "altercations" and some arrests, that police
were out in force, and they would prevent any attack against the mosque.
Bridgeview has a high concentration of Arab Americans.
Other anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents have been reported by the news media
WBEZ radio reported this evening that a man was arrested and charged with a
hate crime after allegedly entering a Chicago gas station, and attacking the Arab
American attendant with a two foot long machete. According to the radio, the
assailant first asked the gas station attendant which country he was from. When
the man answered that he was an American citizen of Moroccan origin, the
suspect went back to his car to get his weapon. The victim suffered wounds on
Channel 7 and other media reported that a firebomb was thrown at a Muslim
school early this morning. It bounced off the wall and exploded on the ground
causing no damage or injuries. Two muslim schools in the Chicago suburbs
received bomb threats today, and both remained closed, even though public
schools were open.