Ethnic and human rights groups in Chicago are banding together to stop what they are calling "reverse terror" against Muslims and Arab-Americans. The groups say Middle Eastern-looking people are still being harassed by people angry about the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Muslim Civil Rights Center in Chicago says there have been almost 90 reported hate crimes against Muslims and Arab-Americans in the state of Illinois since September 11. But it also says there have been many more unreported incidents of discrimination and harassment. The center's vice-chair, Seema Iman, has firsthand knowledge of such abuse. "Sitting in my car, waiting for something and a man, a tough burly guy, walked to my car, came near me, spat at me, turned from me, swearing at me and all I could say is he does not know me, but he has been misinformed and somehow relates me to a crime," she said.
The Muslims Civil Rights Center has joined with several other Chicago-area human rights and ethnic groups to create a year-long campaign called the "LINC Project." It hopes to shed light on the isolation felt by many Muslims and Arab-Americans in the area, and to promote collaboration and understanding with Chicago's other ethnic communities.
Muslim Civil Rights Center Director Kausar Ahmad said the project includes a series of public forums. "To speak specifically about hate crime, racial profiling, housing discrimination," she said. "We are going to provide information to them and hopefully, this information will be empowering so that they know how to respond."
The head of the Japanese-American Citizens League in Chicago, William Yoshino, said his group is a part of the LINC Project because he thinks it is important for all ethnic groups to support those being harassed. He said such support did not exist for Japanese-Americans during World War II. "There were virtually no supportive organizations, whether public or private. In fact, very few individuals came out in support of the (Japanese-American) community," he said. "That is what really resulted in that climate of fear that led to the evacuation and subsequent internment of Japanese-Americans."
Nationwide, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says there have been more than 600 incidents of harassment or violence against Middle Eastern-looking people since last September.