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The War Against Iraq Has Impact On Arab-Americans - 2003-03-24


The president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is calling on President Bush to follow through on his pledge to renew Mid-East Peace efforts. He says the Bush Administration will have difficulty convincing the Arab world to accept its Iraq policy, unless it addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ziad Asali says, “There is a simple answer” to the problem of convincing Arabs and Muslims that the Bush Administration is sincere in its efforts to liberate Iraq.

He says, "I know that anybody who ventures to say there is a simple answer to some complicated question like this risks a great deal of ridicule or lack of credibility. But the simple answer is one has to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian issue, head on without equivocation. This is the main ideological weapon that extremists latch on and use against the United States with double standards, etc, etc. And this is what motivates primitive, tribal, ethnic and religious affiliations. This has to be dealt with."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has been opposed to a war with Iraq. It says diplomatic efforts should have been pursued further and weapons inspectors should have been given more time.

He says, "We have publicly and loudly identified the regime of Saddam Hussein as dictatorial and oppressive and not to be tolerated. This is clear on our record. We have felt that there is a great potential for problems to arise from this war if we do not seem to explore all the diplomatic options that were needed."

Mr. Asali says discrimination against Arab-Americans is on the rise again, following a period after September 11th when the president and others called for calm and tolerance.

He says, "I have to say that since then there has been a fairly steady erosion of the parameters of political correctness in this country as far as prejudice against Arab-Americans at least in the media. All branches of the media. Things that you can say about Arabs and Muslims now are pretty much without censure. You can attack Islam, itself, as a religion or the prophet of Islam and there will be no real public retribution or censor or price to yourself. And this is the only group that presently is allowed to suffer from this calumny (defamation)."

He says such comments or depictions would not be tolerated if they were aimed at any other ethnic or religious group.

While Mr. Asali differs with the Bush administration on its Iraq policy, he does agree on the need to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

He says, "If something terrible happens next, anywhere really, that affects civilians on a large scale that originates anywhere in the Arab/Islamic world, then next to the victims, the immediate victims, the Arab-American / Muslim-American community will most likely pay an unbelievable price, exactly similar to September 11th and perhaps more. So we have every interest, every conceivable existential interest in preventing those crimes, potential crimes."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee describes itself as a grassroots civil rights organization. It says over three million Americans can trace their roots to an Arab country.