Japanese-Americans Condemn Anti-Muslim House Hearings as "Sinister"


13 March 2011

By David Nakamura

During the chaotic days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Basim Elkarra was passing by an Islamic school in Sacramento when he did a double-take: The windows were covered with thousands of origami cranes – peace symbols that had been created and donated by Japanese Americans.

Amid the anger and suspicions being aimed at Muslims at that time, the show of support "was a powerful symbol that no one will ever forget," said Elkarra, a Muslim American community leader in California.

It was also the beginning of a bond between the two groups that has intensified as House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) prepares to launch a series of controversial hearings Thursday on radical Islam in the United States.

Spurred by memories of the World War II-era roundup and internment of 110,000 of their own people, Japanese Americans – especially those on the West Coast – have been among the most vocal and passionate supporters of embattled Muslims. They've rallied public support against hate crimes at mosques, signed on to legal briefs opposing the government's indefinite detention of Muslims, organized cross-cultural trips to the Manzanar internment camp memorial near the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and held "Bridging Communities" workshops in Islamic schools and on college campuses.

Last week, Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-Calif.), who as a child spent several wartime years living behind barbed wire at Camp Amache in southeastern Colorado, denounced King's hearings as "something similarly sinister."

"Rep. King's intent seems clear: To cast suspicion upon all Muslim Americans and to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia," Honda wrote in an op-ed published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

King has defended the hearings by arguing that the Muslim American community has not always been cooperative with the FBI and other law enforcement authorities in countering the growth of radical Islam. And he rejects accusations that he is demonizing Muslims and ignoring threats from other extremists.

In an interview Sunday on CNN, King noted that U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. "is not saying he's staying awake at night because of what's coming from antiabortion demonstrators or coming from environmental extremists or from neo-Nazis. It's the radicalization right now in the Muslim community."

But Honda compared King's position not only to the wartime roundup of the Japanese, but also to the anti-Communist hearings staged by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

"I'll be damned if I'm going to stay quiet and not say something," Honda said in an interview this week. "We have to show people that as Americans, we're not going to put up with this kind of nonsense."

Although the youngest who were interned are in their late 60s, Japanese Americans remember what it means to be targeted during wartime because of their nationality.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that all ethnic Japanese along the Pacific Coast be sent to one of 10 isolated internment camps in seven states. Of those imprisoned, 62 percent were second- or third-generation Japanese Americans born in the United States. Most lost their property to the government.

In 1988, Congress approved legislation that apologized and distributed $1.6 billion in reparations, blaming the roundup on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

It was the memory of the camps that led the Japanese to reach out to their Muslim counterparts, said Kathy Masaoka, a high school teacher who co-chairs the Los Angeles chapter of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress.

"It dawned on us that this is really something that could escalate among Muslims, the same things our parents faced," she said. "They were being scapegoated."

What followed was a candlelight vigil in Los Angeles's Little Tokyo and the "Bridging Communities" program, aimed at educating Muslim and Japanese high school students on diversity. Last year, 40 students participated in five seminars, sharing stories of challenges they face related to race, religion and ethnicity.

"They see clearly that they have similar experiences," said Affad Shaikh, civil rights manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Even though the target group of the discrimination is different, the purpose of that harassment is the same."

In Sacramento, CAIR and the Japanese American Citizens League sponsor an annual 350-mile bus trip to the Manzanar internment camp. More than 10,000 Japanese were interned there, an ordeal recounted in "Farewell to Manzanar," the well-known 1983 memoir by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston.

"When we met with the former internees, they told us how they coped," said Elkarra, president of CAIR's Sacramento Valley chapter. "The challenges they faced were a lot more difficult than anything we faced."

Although the alliance between the two groups is rooted on the West Coast, it has also been on display in Washington, where the Japanese American Citizens League is headquartered. The league has worked with Arab American groups about racial profiling, meeting with the Department of Justice to urge officials not to detain people on the basis of race or religion, said Floyd Mori, the league's national executive director.

As King's congressional hearings have drawn near, Japanese American groups have condemned him. Last week, Mori co-authored a commentary with Deepa Iyer, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, that said the hearings "will do nothing but perpetuate an atmosphere of alienation, suspicion and fear."

Mori plans to send a staff member to the hearing. Honda, too, will be monitoring it, although he has not asked to testify and has not spoken with King about his concerns.

"We just feel very strongly that it does kind of point back to the time when just because we were of Japanese ancestry, people looked upon us with hate and terror," Mori said. "This kind of hearing simply flames that kind of fire today."

Original post: Japanese-Americans Condemn Anti-Muslim House Hearings as "Sinister"

Muslim Cops Put Faith, Lives On The Line - By Omar Sacirbey

When Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca asked Sgt. Muawiya "Mike" Abdeen to set up a liaison unit to local Muslims in 2008, the idea was to build bridges to a community that is often fearful of, or unknown to, law enforcement.

It was tough going at first, said Abdeen, a 23-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department.

"When we used to drive up to a mosque or a Muslim school, people would get scared, they walked away, they closed the doors," said Abdeen, 48.

But the officers kept returning, helping with parking during Friday prayers, giving talks to Muslim youths about safe driving, and meeting with local and national Muslim groups.

Now, Abdeen said, deputies are welcomed with hugs and tea.

"I always tell other officers, ‘If you expect the community to talk to you, you have to talk to them, too," said Abdeen, who was born in Jerusalem and came to the U.S. at age 20. "Terrorism is just a small part of it. The community wants to see that the local police department is genuinely interested in helping them solve the daily quality-of-life issues."

As hearings on Capitol Hill raise the specter of "extremist" Muslims who don't cooperate in terror investigations, the thin blue line of Muslim cops and deputies offer a glimpse of American Muslims who put their lives — and sometimes their faith — on the line in the interests of security.

Baca said he has no doubts about Muslims' loyalty to America after deputy traineee Mohamed Ahmed was shot and nearly killed by an alleged gang member earlier this year.

"I've worked with Muslim deputies, and I know that Muslim deputies are as courageous as any other deputies," said Baca, who had recruited the Somali-born Ahmed as part of his effort to improve relations between law enforcement and local Muslims.

It's not just Muslims who need to overcome fear and suspicion: Muslim officers often have to brief their comrades on Islamic beliefs and etiquette, which is why Abdeen recently worked with the Muslim Public Affairs Council to develop a 15-minute training video.

In February, Capt. Paul Fields of the Tulsa, Okla., Police Department was disciplined for refusing to attend a "Law Enforcement Appreciation Day" at a local mosque. He quickly filed suit, alleging a violation of his religious rights because he said visiting a mosque to make nice with Muslims is not a police duty.

The greater challenge, however, is forging positive relationships with local Muslims who are wary of undercover FBI agents inside their mosques, or dragnet prosecutions in the wake of 9/11.

House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., who will convene the hearings on homegrown extremism, has charged that "the leadership of the (Muslim) community is not geared to cooperation."

Baca, who is scheduled to testify at King's hearings, disputes those charges, saying Muslims have several times led officials to extremist individuals. When there is a lack of cooperation, it doesn't necessarily imply terrorist sympathies.

"It's not that they don't want to cooperate, but because they either don't know that we are there for them, or often because they're scared to reach out to us," said Imam Khalid Latif, a chaplain for the New York City Police Department, which has a few hundred Muslim officers and staff.

Many Muslims are immigrants who come from countries where police are corrupt and brutal, and whose fears are amplified by what some perceive to be an anti-Muslim atmosphere in the United States.

Not that long ago, the idea of a Muslim seeking a career in law enforcement was "something you did not do," said Mubarek Abdul-Jabbar, vice president of the New York City Policeman's Benevolent Association

"They were seen as the enemy and doing that was bordering on treason."

When Abdul-Jabbar joined the department 28 years ago, finding a partner was hard. "A lot of guys didn't want to ride with me because they said you can't trust a man who didn't drink and smoke," said Abdul-Jabbar, 55, whose son is also a member of the NYPD.

Often times, in their quest for acceptance, some Muslim officers will engage in what Abdul-Jabbar calls non-Islamic behavior, like drinking alcohol or swearing.

"You spend a quarter of your life with these guys, so you want to fit in," he said. "These are the guys that are going to back you up. You have to have their support, you don't want anyone thinking, ‘Oh he's not a good guy.'"

Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca created a Muslim Community Affairs Unit in 2007 — a move that has led critics to accuse him of coddling extremism sympathizers.

When former Rep. Mark Souder criticized Baca's relationship with the Council of American-Islamic Relations at a homeland security hearing last year, Baca shot back that Souder was "un-American."

Baca will be back on Capitol Hill on Thursday (March 10) to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee to refute charges by committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., that American Muslims do not want to cooperate with law enforcement.

The following is a Q&A with Sheriff Leroy Baca:

What's the philosophy behind the Muslim community outreach efforts?

Police need all the help they can get. When you have deputy sheriffs who are Muslims, and the Muslim community can identify with them, then it makes the Muslim community feel protected.

What progress have the community outreach efforts achieved so far?

The Muslim community trusts the sheriff's department. Successful law enforcement requires that the public trust law enforcement. And you're not going to get the public's trust if you're not going to trust the public.

Congressman King asserts that Muslims don't cooperate with law enforcement. What's your assessment?

In terms of thwarting terrorist plots, there's been substantial cooperation by the Muslim community. I think Congressman King was told by a few retired police officers that that was the experience that they had. I appreciate the help that the Muslim American community gives the Sheriff's Department, and the Sheriff's Department has always been welcomed by the various groups that are there.

The persons who are most likely to call for help are family members. By having good relationships, Muslim families are more inclined to call about a family member that is leaning towards extremism.

Original post: Muslim Cops Put Faith, Lives On The Line

 

©  EsinIslam.Com

Add Comments




Comments & Debates :-: التعليقات والمحاورات







:-: Go Home :-: Go Top :-: