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Don‘t propegate the hate!


Army.ca Legend
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I would expect that members of this board are smart enough not to label all Arabs as terrorists. Unfortunatly, it seems not all of our fellow countrymen are. I hope you will make an effort to ensure that your friends and peers are not part of the problem.

Backlash against Arabs hits North America

Canadian Press and Associated Press
13 Sept 01

Canadian Arabs have been subjected to assaults, verbal abuse and ethnic stereotyping since the catastrophic terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a prominent Arabic spokesman said Wednesday.

"There have been incidents already," Atif Kubursi, president of the National Council of Canada-Arab Relations, said in an interview from Ottawa.

Mr. Kubursi said five school students with Arabic-sounding names were assaulted in Oakville, Ont., by schoolmates.

Mr. Kubursi said he did not know the ages of the students or how they were assaulted.

No group or individual has taken responsibility for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, but media commentators and U.S. federal authorities have been focusing on Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect.

A Montreal mosque was firebombed Tuesday night. No one was injured in the attack and there was no estimate of damage. The mosque, located in the north end of the city, has been vacant since July.

The Arab-speaking community, which numbers about 300,000 in Canada, "has seen this before, people being abused on the street ... people trying to portray all Arabs in the world as being responsible," Mr. Kubursi said.

Jehad Aliweiwi, executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation, said employees in the organization‘s national office in Toronto have received phone calls "that were less than flattering."

"They were abusive and threatening and one said, ‘You will pay for this,‘ " Mr. Aliweiwi said.

He said the media have to share a large part of the blame for "baseless and irresponsible assumptions" about the entire Arab community.

The federation said it feared a potential backlash against Arab Canadians in the workplace and at schools.

"We‘ve had reports of people not sending their kids to school," Mr. Aliweiwi said.

The largest Arab-Canadian community, he said, is in Montreal with a population of more than 100,000, followed by Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Several Muslims were being threatened in Calgary, said Nagah Hage, chairman of the Muslim Council of Calgary.

The community responded by closing an Islamic grade school to protect 600 children. Police security was also posted at a popular mosque.

"Muslims are being targeted," said Mr. Hage, who estimates there are 40,000 Muslims in Calgary. "There are fears of retaliation."

More than a dozen Muslims have received threatening phone calls at home and on the street, Mr. Hage said.

"They say derogatory things like, ‘You guys should be thrown out of here, you guys should be blown up.‘ Things like that."

Police in St. Catharines, Ont., arrested a 43-year-old man and charged him with uttering death threats after a woman answering the phone for the Islamic information centre in nearby Niagara Falls received a threatening phone call Tuesday evening.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said he is very concerned that Muslims across Canada are being tarred with the same brush.

"I think it would be wrong and certainly it would be unjustified for Canadians to ... blame the religion of Islam for this," he said Wednesday. "Responsible leaders are now speaking out that there may be a faction that is a fundamental militant faction bent on terrorism but this in no way reflects the attitude of the Muslim community throughout the world."

The B.C. Muslim Association said it was horrified by the terrorist attacks and urged the media not to "engage in generalized stereotypical labelling."

It noted there are more than 1.4 billion Muslims around the world comprising more than 60 ethnic groups.

The B.C. association was in the news last fall after a suspicious fire destroyed a mosque in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey.

The fire occurred only days before the beginning of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayers.

While Mr. Aliweiwi and Mr. Kubursi said there were no abusive attacks on their groups‘ Web sites, there were reports in the United States of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim messages spreading on the Internet.

In an America Online chatroom, many used racial slurs against Arabs.

In other areas of Canada, local Muslims condemned the attacks and urged calm.

"We are in a state of shock, sadness and you might even say outrage," said Jamal Badawi, spiritual leader of the Islamic Association of Maritime Provinces. "This is an indiscriminate attack causing a great deal of death, destruction and injuries on a massive scale."

He said the community‘s prayers and condolences go to victims and families.

"There is quite clearly no genuine religious ground, nor even political grievance, to justify the victimization of innocent civilians."

The executive director of Edmonton‘s Canadian Arab Friendship Association expressed concern about a possible backlash against Muslims.

"We urge that whether it‘s the Canadian community in Edmonton or the civilians in the U.S., not to do a knee-jerk reaction," Nora Abou-Absi said.

Saleem Ganam, former president of Edmonton‘s Canadian Islamic Centre, said even if the attackers are Muslims they are the exception, not the rule.

"You‘re looking for a scapegoat and the first one you think about is a Palestinian."

The Muslim community in Winnipeg also braced for any backlash while looking for ways to help the victims.

"I hope Canadians use their judgment," said Shahina Siddiqui, co-ordinator of community relations for the Manitoba Islamic Association.

She said security had been tightened at an Islamic school and mosque.

At a community meeting Tuesday night, the Muslim community decided to help in a blood drive should U.S. authorities request help in dealing with the thousands of injured in the attacks.

In Montreal, Marie Rejouli, editor of the Lebanese newspaper Almoustakbal, which covers Canada‘s Arab community, described the attacks as "a crime against humanity."

She said the Arab community fears that it will be blamed for the terrorist attacks.

"Everybody is ready to take it for granted that it‘s the Arabs," she said. "Officially, there‘s no answer yet."

David MacGregor, a sociologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., who specializes in evil, lauded commentators and the Canadian public for not overreacting against the Arab community.

"So far it‘s been pretty subdued," Mr. MacGregor said, referring to some commentators‘ efforts to prevent people from "lashing out."

"In Canada, so far, that inclination has been limited."

In Bridgeview, Ill., 300 marchers — some waving U.S. flags and shouting "USA! USA!" — tried to march on a mosque in a southwest Chicago suburb late Wednesday.