Solidarity, retaliation follow September 11 – 2001 in Review

Solidarity, retaliation follow September 11 – 2001 in Review – Brief Article

Rui Kaneya

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedies, amid shock and grief, Americans rallied in a renewed spirit of solidarity. Across the country, flags flew with pride and defiance. Candlelight vigils brought people of diverse faiths to town squares. And from all quarters came ardent calls for tolerance.

“There is no place for hatred in Chicago,” Mayor Richard M. Daley declared two days after the attacks. “We must never take out our frustrations on innocent people of a particular ethnicity or religious faith.”

Still, the desire for revenge ran deep, blurring the lines between the true culprits and those who may have looked like them.

In Bridgeview, mobs of demonstrators attempted to protest the terrorism by creating a terror of their own toward local Muslims. Hundreds turned up at an angry march on Bridgeview’s Mosque Foundation, prompting scores of arrests for disorderly conduct. Dozens of cars and trucks drove up and down the southwest suburb’s Harlem Avenue border, with people waving flags, leaning out of windows and shouting, “USA! USA!”

Twelve weeks later, an arsonist torched the offices of the Arab American Action Network, a 20-year-old social service and advocacy organization on the city’s Southwest Side. The fire came after a string of harassing phone calls and e-mails.

A rash of similar attacks and harassments compelled the Chicago Police Department to create a special crime category: “World Trade Center-related,” later changed to “Attack on America.” Police received 46 confirmed reports of such incidents and made 13 arrests between Sept. 11 and Dec. 11. By contrast, 29 hate crimes were reported against Arabs or Muslims between 1994 and 2001.

Mounting concerns have also been raised over the nation’s “war on terrorism.” The U.S. Justice Department has come under fire for casting a wide but selective net in its hunt for potential terrorists. It has arrested more than 1,200 people, mostly of Middle Eastern descent, and plans to interview an additional 5,000 Arab men.

The department has also moved quickly to capitalize on powers granted by new anti-terrorism legislation passed by Congress. The law widely expanded the ability of federal authorities to wiretap and eavesdrop on suspects. Similar legislation sailed through the Illinois General Assembly in November.

Arab and Muslim communities are increasingly feeling under siege. “As a community, we are scared,” said Sabri Samirah, president of United Muslim Americans Association, based in southwest suburban Palos Hills. “It is alarming that our community is the only one being singled out…. This is un-American.”

COPYRIGHT 2002 Community Renewal Society

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group