Muslims, others recount fear and harrassment after bombing. Community Grassroots Group Releases Preliminary Findings
Oklahoma City - In the aftermath of the April 19th Oklahoma City bombing, Muslims and other communities of color were attacked, threatened, harassed and stereotyped.
From Wednesday morning until Friday afternoon - when suspect Timothy McVeigh was arrested - all persons who appeared "Middle Eastern" instantly became suspects in the fatal bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building.
Through an unscientific and informal survey of affected communities, The Oklahoma Hate & Harassment Report has learned that Muslims, Arabs, and other communities of color suffered:
widespread fear and intimidation commonplace verbal harassment at school, in public and in the workplace a significant number of physical assaults and hate crimes
The Report Menu
Among the more serious incidents
Who was responsible?
Supportive Police Response
Towards Healing, Support, and Awareness
AMONG THE MORE SERIOUS INCIDENTS
Sahar Al-Mawsawi, an Iraqi refugee in her early 20s, lost her baby after an April 20th attack on her home in Oklahoma City by persons provoked to anger by reports linking Muslims to the bombing. Drive-by shootings on April 19 and 20 shattered the windows of a mosque and community center in Stillwater, Oklahoma. A 35-year old white male suspect has been apprehended by Stillwater police. According to a community report, the suspect told police he was venting frustration after a friend was injured in the Wednesday explosion. Abraham Ahmad, a U.S. citizen and long-time Oklahoma resident was detained at London's Heathrow Airport, suffering brutal treatment at the hands of British authorities. Ahmad, who was flying from Oklahoma to visit relatives in Jordan, was initially thought to be a suspect in the Federal Building bombing. Waleed Al-Gharib, a student at the University of Oklahoma from Kuwait, reported that his wife was stalked on Thursday, April 20:
"...my wife was at home and at 10:30 on Thursday someone came to my house and knocked on the door and stayed for a long time and was looking in many directions, but she didn't open the door and she waited for about 10 or 15 minutes but he didn't move, and his hand was in his coat...it's like he is hiding something under his coat...so, she get worried and she called the police...but when they arrived he moved, and they took the description from my wife and suggest to stay at home for safety..."
The man spoke to the police officer and disappeared for a short time but reappeared after the officer left and again asked for the door to be opened. This continued for about an hour.
Survey participants reported several incidents of beatings and physical assaults, including an attempted knife attack in a Norman, Oklahoma apartment parking lot. An international student in Durant, a small college town in southern Oklahoma, was allegedly beaten in a supermarket parking lot. Other students in Edmond and Stillwater, two other college towns in Oklahoma, reported physical assaults in their communities. Local Islamic centers and individuals reported an onslaught of hate calls. The Islamic Society of Tulsa, Oklahoma transcribed the calls they received. Here are transcriptions of two of the hate calls they received:
WEDNESDAY, 5:14 PM: "You baby killers, wife beaters, and little boy molesters - be careful Friday, crossing the street. You don't own that public street, and if I'm there in my car, I'll run your asses down. You need to get the fuck out of this country, now."
THURSDAY, 7:27 AM: "Yes, I'd like to know what the Islamic Society is and why you're here, and I think you need to take yourself and all your people and go back to where you belong, 'cause you've done nothing but cause trouble in my country."
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WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE?Respondees felt that the harassment was spurred by self-proclaimed "terrorism experts" who blamed the Muslim and Arab communities for the blast.
When asked to name the "terrorism expert" they felt issued the most irresponsible statements and allegations, participants in the survey agreed on two names: former Congressman David McCurdy (D-OK) and the producer of a recent television documentary "Jihad in America", Steven Emerson.
Congressman McCurdy indicated on Oklahoma City's KWTV Channel 9 Wednesday morning that he believed Muslim students at the University of Oklahoma were involved.
"I just want to live in peace, raise a family, and earn a decent living," said Haidar Al-Saidi, a 25 year-old refugee from Iraq and Oklahoma City resident whose wife lost her baby after an attack on their home.
Though a suspect in the Iraqi family's case has not been identified, Al-Saidi said he believes statements such as Congressman McCurdy's contributed directly to the climate of hate and fear that resulted in the attack on his home.
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SUPPORTIVE POLICE RESPONSECommunity leaders and residents commended the support and cooperation extended by local law-enforcement agencies, in particular the Stillwater and Oklahoma City police departments. Nevertheless, because the affected communities were restrained by fear, many incidents were not reported to the police.
Many Muslims and Arabs in Oklahoma are immigrants, refugees, or international students from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other countries. As a result, many were afraid to report incidents of hate or harassment to the appropriate authorities.
Some did not report personal incidents because of a fear of authority, others because of a fear of retribution due to the political situation in their home countries.
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TOWARDS HEALING, SUPPORT, AND AWARENESSThe findings of The Oklahoma Hate & Harrassment Report will be used to better aid law-enforcement agencies in their efforts to document and prosecute those engaged in acts of hate and harrassment. In addition, they will be used to inform journalists and government officials of the conditions created by the Oklahoma City bombing for the Muslim and Arab communities in Oklahoma.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington, DC-based organization, will be incorporating the findings into a National Anti-Muslim Hate Crime Report, to be released on May 19, 1995. For more information about the national report, please contact Ibrahim Hooper at (202) 638-6340.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a national civil rights organization, is calling on Muslims to join in the healing process in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.