Magazine article The Christian Century

U.S. Muslims Brace for Backlash during War. (News)

Magazine article The Christian Century

U.S. Muslims Brace for Backlash during War. (News)

Article excerpt

As American Muslims braced for an Iraq war, they were deeply apprehensive both that many fellow Muslims will be killed overseas and that they could become victims of harassment at home.

"If it's a quick war where not a lot of people get killed, we may be all right; but if it goes badly and lots of people are dying on both sides, all bets are off regarding an anti-Muslim backlash," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.

While a majority of the American public supports military action against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, Hooper said, "there's almost universal opposition to this war in the American Muslim community."

Both the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and the Washington-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee have issued guidelines for Muslims who become victims of discrimination, harassment or hate crimes, as happened at the time of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

CAIR reported six incidents in the three weeks prior to President Bush's March 17 ultimatum to Hussein. They include windows being broken at a Chicago mosque during prayers and beatings of Muslims in Georgia, California and New Jersey.

"There's a lot of apprehension and fear," said Laila Al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Discrimination Committee, which represents Arabs of all religious backgrounds. "One community especially susceptible is the Iraqi-American community." Pramila Jayapal, who after the September 11 attacks founded the Seattle-based Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington, said the mood is similar in the Pacific Northwest.

Anxiety was heightened for immigrants on March 18, she said, when Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced "Operation Liberty Shield." Among other things, asylum seekers from Iraq and 33 other countries will be detained. …

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