The NBC Learn Town Hall series "Finishing the Dream" continues in Detroit, Michigan, as panelists take a look at Arab-American communities in the greater Detroit area, and how the events on September 11, 2001 have affected their civil rights.
CARMEN HARLAN, Moderator:
The greater Detroit area is home to one of the largest, oldest and most diverse Arab-American communities in the United States. A community vastly diverse in its own ethnic and religious makeup.
CARMEN HARLAN [IN CLIP]: In 2000, 403,000 Arab-Americans lived in the Detroit area making it the Mideast capital of the Midwest and nowhere else in the U.S. have international events like the Iraq war and 9/11 been felt more acutely or more personally.
Woman [IN CLIP]: You adopt the country and it’s laws and you turn around, and people-- even though you’re a good citizen, people question that loyalty.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: During the Iranian hostage crisis, Arab-Americans in Metro Detroit were the target of vandalism and discrimination. It didn’t matter whether they were Iraqis or Saudis or Palestinians or Lebanese.
Man [IN CLIP]: Their views are not important just because they happened to be an Arab, and they’re targeted.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: And during the Persian Gulf War, the night of the Allied attack a Saudi business was vandalized, even though U.S. troops were in Saudi Arabia to save it from Iraq. An Arab store was firebombed the next night. But at no time was the tension between Arab-Americans and their neighborhoods of different races more tangible than post 9/11.
Man #2 [IN CLIP]: People are not comfortable and frankly speaking, they are-- they feel that they are not welcome.
Man #3 [IN CLIP]: September 11th is me no like this day, this day no like it. Me is not happy right now.
HARLAN [IN CLIP]: Many in the Arab community felt the government’s efforts to uncover terrorist connections stepped on their civil rights.
Man #4 [IN CLIP]: What happened on September 11 hurt us as much as anyone. Arab-Americans died in the towers, Arab-Americans helped out when-- when people were injured and needed blood and-- and-- and support.
HARLAN: And just a footnote to that: In 2004, sixty percent of Muslim Arabs in Detroit, who were interviewed in a University of Michigan study, said they were worried more about their family’s future after the attacks. Nine years after 9/11 and six years after the study was done, the question, where are we now? And I’m going to start with Hassan Jaber.
HASSAN JABER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACCESS: The stereotypes of Arab-Americans was started way before September 11. After September 11, Arab-Americans have been really the target of profiling at airports. The target of being-- civil rights being violated due process sometimes when it comes to Arab-Americans. An amazing violation of-- of the Constitution. It’s something that Arab-Americans were-- were a target and continues to be a target.
HARLAN: What can you learn from the-- what you’ve seen of the civil rights movement that we’ve talked about today and certainly what you know.
JABER: I think what we really need to understand that civil rights is everyone. Any violation of anyone’s right is-- is a violation of our rights as a people and the violation of our constitution and our way of life. It’s about all of us.
HARLAN: Let’s hear from our students. We’ve got two students. Yes, let’s hear from you.
BEAVERS, student: Hi, my name is--
HARLAN: Your name is?
BEAVERS: Hi, my name is Jason Beavers and--
CARMEN HARLAN: Uh-huh.
JASON BEAVERS: --I’m going to be a senior at Henry Ford Academy next year. I just want to say that I think that it’s a generational effect occurring at the moment with the younger generation, with so many different and new emerging artists in the media like, for instance, Lady Gaga which you know is someone who’s far out there and maybe like a rapper like Drake. It’s really bringing the younger generation together and I feel that those cultural differences are coming more out there and are more, you know, not so much as the big elephant in the room is more okay to talk about and people are becoming comfortable with it.
But when you think about such things like Arabic Americans and any race for that matter, I think that the media is in some way implementing that fear into the generation.
HARLAN: Okay. So--
JASON BEAVERS: So, I want to know how you feel about media breaking up, you know, those conversations and the media also brining back those conversations.
HARLAN: Okay, that’s interesting. You’re not blaming the media but your point--
JASON BEAVERS: No.
HARLAN: --You’re saying some of the responsibility lies with the media. Do you find that?
SHIRLEY STANCATO, PRESIDENT & CEO NEW DETROIT, INC: Always get your information from more than one source. I mean, that’s important. The media is broad. I mean its television, newspaper, and a lot of things. But I also think it’s important that as an individual, I keep going back to that, you have the ability to-- to make change. I’m happy to hear you say that music is bringing-- bringing you together. Hassan and I have been doing for years a Concert of Colors ACCESS, New Detroit and other organizations because we believe that music is a universal language and everybody can-- can-- can learn from that and come together around that.
So from the one perspective, culture is important. But again, the media from your perspective, perhaps, separates but I always say, get your information from more than one source and-- and-- and again learn for yourself and come to your own conclusions after you’ve done-- after you got new information from a lot of different places.
HARLAN: And where do we-- we get most of our information first, from our families, from our-- from our parents, so they set the stage of what is right, what is-- what’s not right, what’s accepted, what’s not accepted. Anybody else?
STANCATO: I think though in the younger generation; they get information from other places too. Not just their parents.
CARMEN HARLAN: Well, they’ve got the Internet, too.
HARLAN: All right. Let’s hear from another member of our audience.
ALEX PARCELL, Student: Hi, my name is Alex Parcell. I’m from St. Clair Shores, Michigan. I go to-- I'm going to be a senior at Lakeview High School next year. And I wanted to talk a little bit more about xenophobia as the result of the 9/11 attacks and perhaps a little deeper in general.
I’ve heard-- I’ve heard the media-- even the mainstream news media asking almost rhetorical questions to their audiences about how the population feels about mosques being built in their communities. And one in particular, the major story about the multimillion-dollar facility that was planned to be built in New York City and other communities all over the nation. And I-- I almost feel like it’s-- it’s a poor commentary that such a rhetorical question would be asked. And I was wondering what you feel that says about our society that the mainstream media would even consider that a legitimate question.
DR. DANIEL KRICHBAUM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: I think that religious leaders in the metropolitan area can do a much better job of working with the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There are so many more similarities than differences to those religions.
But, I think many of our religious leaders are doing not a very good job in terms of helping their congregants understand people from the other faith communities. This is something that we have, that probably no other community in America has.
JABER: We have-- you know, these three Abrahamic faiths in large numbers and-- and we’re not using that as -- as a way to bring people across the metropolitan area together.
STANCATO: Just want to say that in the civil rights movement, the one thing that we didn’t talk about, it was a multi-racial movement, a multi-religious movement. The Jewish community, very involved in the civil rights movement, white, black, Latino, all kinds of folks came together during that movement to-- to make a difference that they could change.
STANCATO: And so that’s something that we didn’t talk about tonight. But know that all of us-- really we need all of us to-- to make a change and to finish a dream in terms of what we’re talking about tonight.
HARLAN: All right.
Earlier this month, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi found himself at a gathering with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He had been invited to the dinner-and-lecture event in Los Angeles by a friend who works for the World Affairs Council, and he was thrilled.
Civil Rights Movement, Detroit, Michigan, Henry Ford Museum, WDIV, Carmen Harlan, Carol Goss, Kary Moss, Robert Smith, Shirley Stancato, Hassan Jaber, Dr. Daniel Krichbaum, Arab, American, Arab-American, 9-11, 9/11, September 11, Attack, Twin Towers, Dearborn, Religion, Civil Rights, Media, Culture, Music, Islam