Archives UNITED STATES: Anti-Muslim Crimes Higher than Gulf War Period

Newsgroups: Date: 27 May 95 16:07 BST

Copyright 1994 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

*** 24-May-95 ***

Title: UNITED STATES: Anti-Muslim Crimes Higher than Gulf War Period

by Farhan Haq

WASHINGTON, May 24 (IPS) – A day after the U.S. federal offices in Oklahoma City were destroyed by a car bomb, Sahar al-Muwsawi found the threat of anti-Muslim rage had come to her door.

Al-Muwsawi, a pregnant Iraqi refugee, hid in her bathroom as a group of unknown attackers shattered the windows to her home and pounded on the doors, screaming anti-Islamic epithets. She felt a pain in her abdomen and began to bleed uncontrollably.

The following day, federal authorities arrested Timothy McVeigh, a former U.S. Army officer, for involvement in the bombing and denied any role by Muslim groups in the Apr. 19& attack, which killed at least 167 people.

But that knowledge came too late for Sahar al-Muwsawi. She miscarried her near-term baby, who was buried a few days later with the name ‘’Salaam’’ — or ‘’peace’’.

The attack on the al-Muwsawi household was just one of more than 220 incidents of hate crimes against Muslims recorded in the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing, says the Council on American- Islami Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based lobbying group.

That total includes 133 hate calls, 50 incidents of verbal threats, 15 bomb threats, seven beatings, four shootings and the suspected detruction by arson of an Islamic Centre in North Carolina.

The group notes that the number is much higher than the 119 recorded hate crimes aganst Muslims during 1991, the year of the U.S.-led Gulf War against Iraq.

One Muslim activist says a lack of reliable data on anti-Muslim bigotry until recent years could account for the increase.

But the rising number of hate crimes also attests to a media demonisation of Muslims, says CAIR director Ibrahim Hooper. A CAIR poll cites that 55 percent of respondents from the Muslim community feel that ‘’unfounded media accusations against Muslims and Arabs’’ was the main cause of the ensuing hostility.

Much of the violence occurred on Apr 19 and 20, in the immediate aftermath of the federal building’s destruction, when the mainstream U.S. media blamed Arab or Muslim groups for the bombing. About a fifth of the recorded attacks occurred in Oklahoma itself.

The day after the bombing, says Mohammed T. Mehdi of New York’s National Council on Islamic Affairs, his centre received at least 40 calls threatening to kill Muslims or asking that they leave the United States.

Immediately after the bombing, the CAIR report notes, most major media outlets devoted time to exploring a Middle East link to the bombing.

Journalist Steven Emerson said on the CBS nightly news broadcast that ‘’Oklahoma City … is probably considered as one of the largest centres of Islamic radical activity outside the Middle East.’’ CBS was named ‘’the most biased media outlet’’ by 25 percent of the Muslims polled in the CAIR study.

The New York Times noted the existence of three mosques in Oklahoma City, while The Washington Post alleged the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad were present at a 1992 conference in the city.

Perhaps the most vocal attacks against Muslims were on radio call-in programmes — which, ironically, President Bill Clinton later named as a source of the harsh political climate that gave rise to the Oklahoma City bombing.

New York’s popular radio host, Bob Grant of WABC, told one caller who defended Muslims a day after the bombing, ‘’What I’d like to do is put you up against a wall with the rest of them, and mow you down with the rest of them. Execute you with them.’’

Many media outlets, including most major dailies, responded to such hasty assertions after the culprits behind the bombing were found by publishing stories about the anti-Muslim bigotry over the following days, Hooper says.

But the mood in the country and in the media remains suspicious of the country’s six million Muslims, he adds.

Mehdi argues, ‘’This is a racist, anti-Islamic society. Americans need a foreign villain — like (former Nicaraguan President Daniel) Ortega, (former Panamanian General Manuel) Noriega or (Libyan Col. Muammar) Qadhafi.’’

In the short term, coverage of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias in the media may help counter the rising bigotry, contends Sam Husseini, a researcher at the New York media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

‘’But in the long term, they have to have coverage of Arabs when there isn’t a bomb,’’ Husseini adds. (end/ips/fah/yjc/95)

Origin: Washington/UNITED STATES/ ----

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