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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 5, 2006

Written by C.N.

U.S. Trying to Bridge Gap to Arabs & Muslims

One of the topics that I’ve consistently posted about is how Arabs, Muslims, and anybody perceived to be Arab or Muslim continue to be subjected to racial profiling, intolerance, and discrimination. Ultimately, the primary culprit of this has been the U.S. government by not just direct actions against Arabs and Muslims since 9/11 but also because of creating and in many ways, reinforcing anti-Arab/Muslim perceptions and sentiment.

But are we now at a turning point where things will improve? We can certainly hope that now that the Democrats control Congress that, at least in theory, they should be less tolerant of such blatant forms of discrimination. Also, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, another glimmer of hope is that the Bush administration is actually trying more diligently to reach out to Arab and Muslim Americans to improve relations with them:

Across the country . . . officials of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI are reaching out to Muslim-Americans in an attempt to bridge the huge gap of mistrust that developed on both sides after 9/11. It’s sometimes an uncomfortable process, as Ficke found. It’s also not being applied consistently across the country, working well in some places – like New York, where the Muslim Advisory Council meets regularly – and not so well in others. But homeland-security experts and Arab- and Muslim-American leaders believe such outreach is crucial to maintaining the nation’s security and strengthening its social fabric. . . .

There’s no question the US Muslim community felt the brunt of the FBI’s counterterrorism and law-enforcement initiatives after 9/11, say experts. More than 1,200 immigrants, mostly Arab and Muslim males, were detained and denied due process for months. The Justice Department’s own inspector general concluded that their detentions were “indiscriminate and haphazard,” with no clear distinction made between those held for immigration violations and those who were suspected terrorists. The report also found “a pattern of physical and verbal abuse” by correction officers. Ultimately, only a handful of those detained were charged with a terrorism-related offense, and 231 were deported.

The Justice Department also set up a special program that required male visitors from 24 Arab and Muslim countries to register with local immigration offices. More than 80,000 men did so. Immigration officials found an estimated 13,000 were “out of status,” which means there were problems with their visas. They’re now awaiting deportation hearings. But experts say many of the visa problems were caused by inaccurate data and long delays in processing applications for permanent status. The Justice Department eventually canceled the program.

It’s a nice development but one that is much too late in the whole scheme of things. While federal authorities were running rampant on the civil and human rights of Muslim and Arab Americans, any trust that could have been developed between these two sets of communities may have been permanently damaged.

I suppose the federal authorities’ efforts now are better than nothing at all, but they’ll have to put their money where their mouth is in order to convince us that they are genuinely sincere about such outreach efforts. If they’re gonna talk the talk, they’re gonna have to walk the walk . . . otherwise, it’ll be the same old, same old.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "U.S. Trying to Bridge Gap to Arabs & Muslims" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/12/us-trying-to-bridge-gap-to-arabs-muslims/> ().

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