As working people try to make sense of the recent tragedy that has taken place in New York and Washington, D.C., a very dangerous mood has emerged toward Arabs and Arab Americans as well as other people of western Asian descent and dark-skinned people in general.
This is in large part the result of irresponsible media coverage, as well as venomous and ignorant rants coming from some racist politicians, radio DJs and people in our communities. According to several Arab American groups, nationally syndicated radio DJs have fabricated and broadcast stories of Arab Americans celebrating the Sept. 11 bombings.
This hate-mongering has resulted in hundreds of attacks on Arabs, Arab Americans, Moslems, and other people of color across the country. These attacks range from physical attacks on “Arab”-looking pedestrians, to the throwing of Molotov cocktails at mosques.
The numerous patriotic rallies being held across the country, officially to unify the nation, have helped to ignite a number of these attacks. For example, in Bridgeview, a mostly white suburb in the Chicago area, police had to stop several hundred white protesters who were marching on a nearby mosque while chanting, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
Racist vigilantes have fired live bullets at mosques in various cities, as well as at Arab-owned businesses. In Palo Heights, Calif., a gas station attendant was attacked with a machete by someone who thought he was of Arab descent. In Boston, a man from Saudi Arabia was stabbed while leaving a nightclub. An Egyptian shopkeeper in Los Angeles and a Sikh gas station owner in Phoenix were both shot and killed.
In San Francisco on Sept. 17, a man of Hispanic and East Indian descent was taunted and punched by a group of men and women, who called him “sand nigger” and “raghead.” His friend, an Australian with blond hair and blue eyes, tried to come to his aid but was stabbed with a knife. The attacker yelled, “You’re a white nigger and your friend’s an Arab, and we kill Arabs.”
A number of Sikhs, who wear beards and turbans, have been stopped and searched by police. In Rhode Island on Sept. 12, at least three men-two Sikhs and an elderly Muslim-were removed from an Amtrak train by police and FBI agents. One of the Sikhs reported that the police handcuffed him and held him at gunpoint while demanding to know if he was a terrorist or “trying to run away.”
While searching him, the cops found a small dagger (which Sikhs carry as an article of their faith). He now faces misdemeanor charges for carrying a “concealed weapon.” Meanwhile, the TV networks played up his “capture,” displaying his photograph next to a shot of Bin Laden.
Many Arab American and Islamic families, fearing violence, are keeping their children from school. Colleges and high schools across the country report that many Arab students are afraid to attend classes. Some Islamic worship services, and even prayer vigils for the victims, have received threats of violence.
These attacks have to be stopped. Arab Americans are among the dead in the World Trade Center as well as among the emergency crews trying desperately to rescue survivors in the rubble. And just like all working Americans, they are mourning those who perished in the attacks.
We in Youth for Socialist Action condemn the role that the media has played in creating this racist backlash and the war frenzy in general. -A.R.