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Published: Saturday, 10/1/2005

Arab-Americans warned to guard against prejudice

People of Arab descent should be unafraid of their heritage and should fight prejudice and discrimination wherever they find it, a former U.S. Congressman told local Arab-Americans last night.

Addressing the 17th annual banquet of the Greater Toledo Association of Arab-Americans at Gladieux Meadows in South Toledo, former U.S. Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D., Cleveland), president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said after Sept. 11, 2001, it was Arab-Americans' turn to be racially profiled and discriminated against, like Japanese Americans during World War II.

"Today, because of the diabolical acts of a few, we are suffering as people," Ms. Oakar said. "But we must understand that racial profiling is a crime."

She told the audience of 400 about some recent cases of what she called discrimination that the AAADC has taken on, including restoring a U.S. Air Force pilot to his job, removing a 5-year-old from a no-fly list, and helping a group of college students re-enter the country after a brief vacation abroad.

"The second worst terrorist act in the country was done by Timothy McVeigh and his friends," she said. "But we don't stereotype against blond-haired, blue-eyed men. And if we had, we would be wrong. But we [Americans] tend to stereotype people who are Arab or are perceived to be."

She spoke of liberty and justice for all as the main principles of the United States, and used the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt - "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" - to urge the audience to be brave in fighting discrimination,

"There is a lot of fear in the Arab-American community, but [the AAADC] urge you not to be afraid of what you are," Ms. Oakar said.

"We don't believe in terrorism because it is not of our culture, and don't let anyone say that it is. And we deserve to be part of this country as much as anybody else."

The Toledo association honored three local educators: Dan Johnson, president of the University of Toledo; Samir Abu-Absi, associate chairman of UT's English department, and John G. Merriam, a retired Bowling Green State University political science professor who also has taught at Lourdes College about Middle Eastern and African history.



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