The other side of hate

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The other side of hate

Re: AHMED SOLIMAN’s Is anti-Arab discrimination alive and well?

Dear Editor:

While we share Ahmed Soliman’s joy at the qualitative reduction in the incidents of hate and discrimination against Arab Americans, we think there is another side to the story. The ADC’s report covers incidents of hate against Arab Americans (Muslim and Christian). By design, the report excludes statistics on non-Arab Muslim Americans. It would be erroneous to deduce that conditions have improved for Muslim Americans.

It is a fact that most acts of hate are rendered against two types of groups in our community: Muslim women wearing a head cover, or Hijab, and against bearded Muslim men. It is also a fact that most Arabs who encountered acts of discrimination were Arab Muslims. Christian Arabs luckily have not been the intended or the primary target of discrimination. Only 35% of Arab Americans are Muslims, it should be noted.

We laud ADC for this important work. We wish, however, they cooperated with CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) on producing a complete picture of hate crimes in America. The real target of discrimination whether by our government or by fellow American citizens have been Arab Muslims and Muslims from other nationalities. Readers should look to CAIR’s 2008 Report, to learn more about the fate of Muslim Americans.

While hate mongers spew their bigotry against anyone who looks or behaves like a Muslim/Arab, ADC has produced a report that erroneously embellishes the hate crimes report by excluding the status of the largest segment of victims, namely American Muslims, some of whom are of Arab ethnicity.

The great majority of victims seeking ADC’s help are Arab Muslims while the largest number of victims seeking CAIR’s assistance is Muslims of other nationalities. Until the rise of CAIR in the early 1990’s, ADC was the sole venue for civil rights abuses by Arabs and Muslim. Islamophobia and the substantial increase in Muslim immigration, according to some, are setting the ground for an avoidable fight on turf between ADC and CAIR. This undeclared battle is manifested in the fierce competition for membership, funds, and claims to represent.

While rivalry may produce a healthy outcome, we think the two giants need to find common grounds to coexist. The issues facing our Arab and Muslim Americans must not be dwarfed by a needles race for dominance. Victims of hate and their leaders stand to defeat bigotry only if they unite.

Aref Assaf, Ph.D., president of American Arab Forum, a think tank specializing in Arab and Muslim American affairs. He was president of the NJ Chapter of ADC in 2004.