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VIEWS AND VOICES
"I feel like I'm defending myself for being Arab"
The grip of anti-Arab racism

March 10, 2006 | Page 4

THE WEEK of February 19 looked to start off as another normal week in Toledo, Ohio. But as we all soon started to realize, there was nothing "normal" about it.

On Monday morning, the news had spread that the KindHearts organization, a Muslim charity in Toledo that provided services to the poor in Palestine, was shut down and all assets were frozen.

The organization is being accused of funding Hamas, which Homeland Security has labeled a "terrorist" organization. Hamas is a political group, which was chosen in a legitimate election in which the people of Palestine spoke their voice.

Later on that afternoon, I arrived at the University of Toledo (UT) for my afternoon class. I picked up the Independent Collegian, UT's school newspaper, to find that they had printed a racist editorial by a College of Law student, in which he condemned Muslims as the problem for the response to the racist cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad, and stated that he and other "westerners" were "afraid when they had to pass a bearded Muslim on the street."

On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the indictment and arrest of three local Toledoans--including one current UT student and one former UT student--on charges of "plotting jihad against U.S. occupation forces in Iraq."

Although the three men were indicted for plotting a "jihad" on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the media, as well as UT President Dan Johnson, portrayed the three men as guilty. The system is supposed to perceive you as innocent until proven guilty, but it seems to work the opposite when it comes Arabs.

The racism only continued from there when, on Wednesday, leaders of the Arab Student Union (ASU) and the Muslim Student Association called a meeting with Johnson to thank him for sending out a mass e-mail in support of the Arab and Muslim community at UT. Emad Abou-Arab, president of the ASU, and a member of the International Socialist Organization, said he had some questions.

"I don't think the meeting was productive, it was a bunch of propaganda," Abou-Arab said. "Everyone's only asking Arabs questions. Do you know this guy? Do you know that guy? I feel like I'm defending myself just for being Arab." "Why are we just singling out the colored people?" Abou-Arab asked the gathering. "Is being Arab a crime?"

Abou-Arab's frustration is understandable in a city where neo-Nazis have paid two visits in the past several months.

Racism is being used as a cover for the ongoing occupations of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan. This racism is setting the stage for more violence against Arabs and Muslims, on our college campus and throughout Toledo. We must stand together and fight the enemies of freedom, equality and justice for all.
Robbie Abdelhoq, Toledo, Ohio

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