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VIEWS AND VOICES
This is how the racists are exploiting September 11
Mock lynching at a mosque

September 22, 2006 | Page 4

MEMBERS OF far-right-wing organizations such as United American Committee (UAC), the Minuteman Project and Coptic Christians of America gathered outside of the King Fahd Mosque on September 10 in Culver City, Calif., to hold a mock lynching. The occasion? To "commemorate" the five-year anniversary of the September 11 tragedy by hanging Osama bin Laden in effigy from gallows on a rented pick-up truck.

More than 100 racists were forced to gather on the opposite side of the street from the mosque because a small but significant number of counterprotesters were able to secure the sidewalks surrounding the mosque. As the lynch mob shouted racist garbage at those who defended the mosque, counterprotesters chanted back, "Brothers, sisters have no fear--Muslims are welcomed here!"

Unfortunately, antiracist fighters were outnumbered by the right-wing hate groups, at times by a margin of 3 to 1. The racists finally got what they came out for--an old-fashion lynching, only fake.

Even more disquieting, the master of ceremonies was the self-proclaimed "Black Republican" and staunch anti-immigration co-founder of UAC, Ted Hayes. Hayes hooded the mock executioner and rallied the crowd as he put the noose around the bin Laden figure. After the hanging, fellow racists threw objects at the figure, while some came up and beat it with their shoes.

Hayes ended the ritual by blowing on a shofar and calling on Muslims at the mosque to denounce bin Laden and terrorism while concluding, "The judgment of God is upon you!" This was a horrifying reminder of the not-so-distant history of this country, where lynchings of African Americans were often held as whites would picnic while watching the festivities--regardless of the fact that bodies were often desecrated postmortem.

If you haven't heard of UAC, that is because it is the latest group among the growing number of far-right-wing organizations. These organizations are emboldened by the legitimacy given to groups like the Minutemen by the mainstream media as well as politicians.

Rep. Tom Tancredo's (R-Colo.) statement that the United States should bomb Muslim holy sites in retaliation of any attack on U.S. soil has been taken to heart but such vigilante groups. On August 26, at a counterdemonstration in Maywood, Calif.--a city near Los Angeles that has declared its city a sanctuary for working migrants and their families--one of the Minutemen signs read "Tom Tancredo for president."

The UAC's platform is almost identical to those of the anti-immigrant Minutemen and Save Our State (SOS) before them. However, the UAC targets the Muslim community in particular for the purpose of protecting America from the "threats of Islamic extremism."

With branches in five states already, the UAC was founded in part by Jesse Petrilla, a former University of California-Irvine student who made his name in college by showing offensive drawings of the Prophet Muhammad at the university--the same drawings that sparked riots across Europe.

Ted Hayes helped Petrilla form UAC out of the ashes of his former organization, the Crispus Attucks Brigade (CAB), whose mission was to "move American Black peoples to take their rightful and dutiful role to stop illegal immigration into the United States of America."

Hayes' presence attempts to provide the UAC and other organizations with a safe cover from claims that they are racist hate groups. His actions, however, have proven that they are anything but that.

After the massive immigrant rights demonstrations this spring, Hayes joined Minutemen cofounder Jim Gilchrist for a rally in South Central Los Angeles' Leimert Park with the intent of dividing the Black and Latino communities. Hayes claimed that since Blacks work low-wage jobs and immigrants will work for less, undocumented immigrants are the "biggest threat to Blacks in America since slavery."

Like the Minutemen, who use the "war on terror" as justification for their militancy, the UAC is increasingly emboldened by the Bush Administration's rhetoric of "Islamic fascism" and the profiling of Arabs and Muslims to carry out harassment. Its platform states, "Our goal is to encourage Muslim Americans to embrace democratic ideals, and the American way of life."

Perhaps the most absurd part of the UAC's supposed aims is to "protect women's rights." Using the same hollow excuse George Bush used to invade Afghanistan, the UAC cites the hijab--the head covering worn by many Muslim women and girls--as a form of women's oppression.

The UAC even claims that the hijab is a national security issue. Its Web site states, "Aside from the oppression issue, many security concerns arise regarding traditional Islamic clothing in public locations. "Security officials have posed the question, 'Would someone be allowed to wear a ski mask into a bank? Why then can they cover their entire face in the name of Islam?'"

There is even a section on the UAC Web site for kids, where "Thomas the UAC Eagle" teaches children how to prepare an emergency kit in case of a terrorist attack. Kids can also learn how to tell adults about "suspicious people" and sing "God Bless America."

This isn't the first time the King Fahd Mosque has been targeted. Jewish Defense League (JDL) leaders Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel were arrested in December 2001 on terrorism charges for attempting to blow up the mosque and the office of Arab American Congressman Darrel Issa. Armed with guns and five pounds of explosives, Krugel allegedly said on tape that Arabs "need a wakeup call" and that the JDL needed to do something to one of their "filthy" mosques. The UAC has links through its communications director to the JDL.

The formation of a strong united front against this growing racist right must become a top priority for all activists and movements of the left. Past struggles against far-right groups such as SOS and the Minutemen have shown that the most effective way to drive back their numbers is to stand up and fight their racist assaults whenever they come out to terrorize communities.

These groups will not simply go away if we ignore them. On the occasions when our side has largely outnumbered theirs, the racists have shrunk in confidence and in numbers--and often did not dare return to the same city.

More recently, however, far-right groups have been successful at forcing their racist rhetoric onto the stage of national politics, and as a result, they are becoming bolder and increasing their membership. For example, the far right has been able to see its racist agenda materialize in the form of anti-immigration legislation (both locally and nationally), an increased militarization of the border and an acceleration of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and deportations within immigrant communities.

Up until recently, the primary target of these various vigilante groups has been the Latino community, and Latino immigrants in particular. Now, in an effort to try and hard-sell its increasingly unpopular "war on terror," the Bush administration is upping the ante against Islam.

Bush's hate speeches against "Islamic fascism" are making life for Muslim Americans increasingly stressful. A July Gallup Poll found that many Americans have "negative feelings or prejudices against people of the Muslim faith," and that nearly one in four Americans said they wouldn't like to have a Muslim as a neighbor. Thirty-nine percent were in favor of requiring Muslims to carry special identification and the same percentage say they are "prejudiced" against Muslims.

If we are going to successfully build the left in the U.S., we must unite in our fight against the right. It is very important that the immigrant rights movement, teachers' unions, labor unions, the antiwar movement and Muslim communities all join forces in stamping out these racist hate groups.

We need to reignite the motto: "An injury to one is an injury to all." We need to create a network where we all come out and support each other's strikes and demonstrations against the racist hate on the rise across the country. It is only through our unity that we can ultimately build a movement that can successfully crush these racist hate groups.
Katie Miller and Kurt Krueger, Los Angeles

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