A Look At Ourselves



While Americans everywhere lament the terrible loss created by the recent terrorist acts upon the World Trade Center, there is a greatly pervasive and insidious sentiment that has struck fear and terror to Arab and Muslim Americans. This sentiment is the same that arose when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor almost sixty years ago, prompting officials to send Americans of Japanese descent into dehumanizing internment camps. Now in the wake of this national crisis, this sentiment has once again arisen, and now the targets are Arab-Americans.

Across the country, there have been several reports of violence directed towards Arab-Americans. In Arizona, a Sikh man who owned a gas station was shot to death by a white male who claimed that his actions were justified since it was an act of patriotism. In another incident, a Pakistani Muslim in Dallas was also fatally shot in the grocery store he owned. Several Islamic mosques around the country have been the targets of firebomb attacks.

However, not all of the actions taken against Arab-Americans are in the form of physical violence. There is, of course, a great deal of verbal abuse against Arab-Americans that have been reported, and some of these reports are right here near us in towns such as Lackawanna where passersby in cars scream out words such as, "Go back to your own country!" Right here in the University at Buffalo, if you listen intently, you can hear vehement and disturbing voices uttering things such as, "Those goddamn Arabs, I say we bomb them all!"

This mode of thinking errs since it selectively singles out a whole group of people due to the malicious actions of a few individuals. Surely it is only absurd and illogical to associate all Arabs with the events of last Tuesday since all Arabs are not terrorists and to suppose so would be to support false ideals. Indeed, the Qur'an, the religious text of Islam, does not accept acts of violence such as the one directed at the World Trade Center. Osman, a senior here at UB, and a devoted Muslim of Pakistani descent, emphasized this tenet of Islamic faith. "The Qur'an says that even if there is a war, you're not allowed to kill innocent people."

He goes on to condemn the culprits of this horrendous act. "These select few people are only Muslim by name. They are not really practicing Muslims since the laws of Islam have been violated."

But just as much hatred and anger is directed towards Arab-Americans by other Americans, there is a disdain for other minority groups as well. Just a few nights ago I was riding my bike along Princeton Road where I came to a stop, awaiting my turn to cross the street to Niagara Falls Boulevard, when a car deliberately made a sharp u-turn, in an attempt to run me over. Luckily, I reacted quickly enough to evade the rampaging car. A few days ago before, there were a couple of incidences of verbal attacks whereby passengers in cars would yell out obscenities and racist remarks. Up to this point, despite my Asian ethnic background, I had never experienced such antagonism before in this city.

Perhaps this whole terrorist incident is an excuse to terrorize people not of European descent. Maybe these Americans have always unwillingly accepted minorities into their bosom, allowing minorities to have a minute share in the wealth of the nation. Perhaps the attitude taken by these savage individuals in relation to minorities is, "Sure we'll give you a chance to redeem yourself in this society, but if you screw up, you will pay for your misdeeds!" It is quite unfortunate that a few Americans have adopted a repugnant stance of hatred against other Americans.

By inducing this form of thinking and behavior, one would only exacerbate the current situation, as more destruction and strife is cultivated. These actions are not patriotic or nationalistic but contradictory to the democratic principles of the United States.

These acts cause a detriment not only to the individuals that are victims to these assaults but to the state of the nation and to engage in these acts would be to destroy the essence of this country, that is, the essence of freedom and liberty for all individuals under this multifarious society.

Such liberties that other Americans enjoy such as sitting down at a caf?(c) somewhere, sipping on coffee and reading the papers can no longer be enjoyed by Arab-Americans and other minorities. There is a feeling among Arab-Americans and minorities that perhaps is beyond the comprehension of those who hold these hateful convictions - the feeling of being betrayed by their own countrymen.