Hate Crimes on Increase in Wake of Terror Attacks in US


 

An unidentified Muslim man hangs a US flag from the roof of Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, 13 September, 2001. The Mosque was under heavy patrol by police after a large crowd of angry protesters descended on the mosque the night before.

Sept. 14 (iviews.com) - A rash of threats and attacks against Muslims and Arabs living in North America were reported, prompting leaders in the US and Canada to call for calm.

Even before the US government pointed to Islamic militant Osama bin Laden as possibly being behind the US attacks, a wave of backlash erupted against Muslims and Arabs in the United States and Canada as well as other countries.

In a phone conversation Thursday with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, President Bush said: "...we must be mindful that as we -- as we seek to win the war [against terrorism], that we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve. I know that is your attitude as well, certainly the attitude of this government, that we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror."

Prime Minister Jean Chretien asked for people to stop singling out members of Canada's Muslim community.

"I also want to emphasize we are in a struggle with terrorism, not against any one community or faith," he said.

And US Attorney General John Ashcroft gave a stern warning Thursday against the hate attacks.

US Muslims listen to speeches 13 September, 2001 in Pasadena CA, at an Interfaith Memorial Service for victims of 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC (L-R): Lena Alfi, her mother Manal Alfi and Heba Hathout.

"Since Tuesday the Justice Department has received reports of violence and threats of violence against Arab-Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern and South Asian descents.  We must not descend to the level of those who perpetrated Tuesday's violence by targeting individuals based on their race, their religion, or their national origin.  Such reports of violence and threats are in direct opposition to the very principles and laws of the United States and will not be tolerated," Ashcroft said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says anti-Muslim attacks have included vandalism and shootings at American Islamic centers, threats against Muslim institutions and attacks on individuals who are identifiably Muslim.

In Bridgeview, Illinois, some 300 marchers, some waving US flags and shouting, "USA! USA!" tried to march on a mosque in a southwest Chicago suburb late Wednesday.  Police pushed back the demonstrators and arrested three people.  The same day, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Arab American community center.  No injuries were reported.

And in Huntington, New York, a 75-year-old man attempted to run down a Pakistani woman with his car in a shopping mall parking lot, police said.  He then followed her into a store and threatened to kill her.

A man in a ski mask in Gary, Indiana, fired a high-powered assault rifle at a gas station where a naturalized citizen born in Yemen, was working Wednesday.

A mosque in Lynnwood, Washington, was vandalized, and no one showed up for afternoon prayers at the Islamic Center of Spokane.  And in Seattle, a man reportedly pointed a gun at members of an area mosque, and then tried to set fire to the building late Thursday.  He was arrested after he crashed his car while attempting to flee.

Since Tuesday, Canadian Muslims or Arabs as well as mosques have been targeted in some 30 to 40 separate incidents across Canada, said Imran Yousuf, of the Canadian-Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA). The group estimates there are 600,000 Muslims and 400,000 Arab-Christians living in Canada.

"Canadian Muslims should not suffer for being Muslim," Naeem Siddiqi of the CMCLA told reporters in from the Jami Mosque, where a sermon was held to condemned the terrorist attacks as a "crime against humanity."

Imam Ahmad Kutty led about 200 worshipers in prayer saying "there is no room in Islam for fanaticism" and calling on others to not allow racism against Muslims by "forgetting to be good neighbors to each other," a tenet of major religions.

Siddiqi said officials and the media also must "exercise restraint in using inflammatory language that pins the blame of the terrorist attacks on any faith or ethnic group," he said.

"Using visual or oral symbols of a faith community in conjunction with the crimes of terrorists will only lead to more hysteria, incriminate the innocent and possibly lead to more loss of innocent lives."

Even in Australia, a school bus carrying Muslim children was the target of stone-throwers in Brisbane, and vandals tried to set fire to a Lebanese church in apparent acts of retaliation for the terrorist attacks in the United States, officials said.

Racial taunts and threats against Muslims in Britain have increased after the terror attacks on the United States, the editor of the London-based Muslim News said Friday.

Women wearing headscarves have been abused and branded "murderers". Mosques have been vandalised and in one case received a bomb threat, said editor Ahmed Versi.

"The central London mosque was evacuated at 3:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Thursday after receiving a bomb threat. Now only a third of people are turning up for a health fair there. They say they are too scared to come along," the editor said.

"We have been inundated with e-mails and calls from Muslims everywhere, who have been threatened over the last couple of days."

"Two Muslim women observing the Hijab were walking down the road in Bushey in Hertfordshire, when two men pulled up in a car and shouted: 'You Muslims are murderers'."

There were Muslims among members of the emergency services who perished when the World Trade Centre collapsed and among those working in the tower, said the journalist.

"Many black people who work in the New York fire and police departments are practising Muslims. And 50 Bangladeshi and two Lebanese Muslims were working in the tower when it collapsed," he said.

He said British Muslims were sharing in the global outpouring of grief and mourning that has followed the attacks.

Members of the Muslim community on Thursday signed the condolence book at the US Embassy in London, to show their solidarity and grief with the victims, he added.

He also dismissed as a "fringe extremist" the British-based Islamic cleric Abu Hamza, who told worshippers at a mosque in London Friday that the terror attacks on the US were an act of "self defence".

A network of incident rooms has been set up across the country in major Muslim areas so people can report attacks and learn basic security and safety skills to defend themselves, another community leader announced.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, speaking late Friday at a meeting attended by between 60 and 70 members of various Muslim organisations in North London, urged members of the community to defend themselves if attacked by people wanting to blame Islam for Tuesday's attacks in the US.

Britain has a Muslim community of 2 million in a total population of 60 million.

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AFP contributed to this report.

 

 

 


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