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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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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.

April 5, 2007

Written by C.N.

Parallels Between Treatment of Muslims and Japanese

It’s not a surprise that the situation of Muslims and Arabs being detained without any direct evidence after 9/11 has been compared to that of Japanese Americans being imprisoned in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. In that context, neither should it be surprising that overwhelmingly, the children and grandchildren of those Japanese Americans imprisoned side with the rights of those Arabs and Muslims detained after 9/11:

In recent years, many scholars have drawn parallels and contrasts between the internment of Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the treatment of hundreds of Muslim non-citizens who were swept up in the weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, then held for months before they were cleared of links to terrorism and deported.

But the brief filed today [by the descendants of Japanese Americans imprisoned after Pearl Harbor in support of Arab and Muslims detained] is a rare case of members of a third generation stepping up to defend legal protections that were lost to their grandparents, and that their parents devoted their lives to reclaiming. . . .

The brief counters that the ruling “overlooks the nearly 20-year-old declaration by the United States Congress and the president of the United States that the racially selective detention of Japanese aliens during World War II was a ‘fundamental injustice’ warranting an apology and the payment of reparations.” . . .

If it was a grave injustice to subject “enemy aliens” to prolonged detention on account of race and national origin in World War II, the brief says, it was at least as unjust to single out the Turkmen plaintiffs, who were accused only of overstaying their visas.

The article describes the personal stories of the three Japanese Americans who co-wrote the legal brief and what they and their ancestors had to endure in the whole imprisonment process after Pearl Harbor. Their experiences help to put a human face on an issue that may seem rather remote to some people, even to Asian Americans.

As the article describes, the Supreme Court initially ruled in three cases in the 1940s that the imprisonment of Japanese Americans was legal and constitutional. However, in 1983, the Supreme Court overruled and reversed those earlier decisions when evidence came to light which showed that evidence of Japanese American being a security threat were overblown and that negative evidence which showed them to be no threat was suppressed or ignored.

I’m not a legal scholar, but it seems so clear to me that when the Supreme Court made those rulings in 1983 and when Congress and Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. officially apologized for the Japanese American imprisonment in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that a significant precedent was established on the constitutionality of detaining Americans with no direct evidence, even in times of war.

In instances like this, my diehard liberal ideology comes through loud and clear — the ends of trying to ensure national security do not justify the means of profiling and singling out an entire group of people, stripping Americans of their constitutional rights, and imprisoning them with no direct evidence that they personally have committed any crime.

Why are the lessons of history so hard to learn?


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

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Parallels Between Treatment of Muslims and Japanese" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/04/parallels-between-treatment-of-muslims-and-japanese/> ().

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