On the 75th anniversary of the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, CAIR-Chicago Deputy Director Sufyan Sohel joined the Japanese American Citizens League and other civil rights and social justice organizations to warn of the dangers of allowing war hysteria and fear to lead to the violation of civil liberties. Speakers highlighted the parallels between the targeting of Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor, and current Islamophobic rhetoric against the Muslim American community, and expressed solidarity in working to prevent repeating the mistakes of history.
Sohel noted the alarming increase of hate crimes directed against the Muslim American community in the past year. “My community is afraid,” stated Sohel. “Afraid that America will repeat the injustice faced by our Japanese American brothers and sisters… So, on this day, where 75 years ago, the attack by a foreign country led to the forced internment of over 100,000 Americans, let us pray that we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past.”
Other speakers included Chiyoko Omachi, 90-year-old Japanese American who was living in a Japanese American fishing community on Terminal Island in the Port of Los Angeles in 1941; Sandra Yamate and Anthony Becknek from the Chicago Bar Association; Brant Rosen, Midwest Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee; and Rebecca Ozaki, Youth Co-Chair of JACL Chicago, who spoke of her grandfather’s experience following the Pearl Harbor attack. Ozaki reflected on her own sense of obligation to ensure that her grandfather’s experience is never forgotten: “As a fourth-generation Japanese American, I hope to build upon his legacy to fight for equity and do everything in my power to ensure never let the injustice that he and the Japanese American community faced happen again.”