WTTW: Ahmed Rehab Speaks on Islamophobia After 9/11
September 12, 2016 Eddie Arruza of WTTW (PBS) spoke with Executive Director Ahmed Rehab on Islamophobia fifteen years after 9/11. Below are a few notable quotes:
AR: "When it happened--the attacks of 9/11--obviously we grieved as everybody else as citizens of this country and as human beings to this terrible attack. But also [we] realized that our lives were going to change and the perception of our religion and our communities in ways that were...troubling because we had nothing to do with this attack. It was a surprise to us as to anyone else. But here we are today, 15 years later, still talking about it from the perspective of Muslims as if we had something to do with it."
"[The Republican Party] has become a party in which someone like Trump is at the lead for no coincidental reasons because they have laid the groundwork for that kind of rhetoric to grow against Latinos, against Muslims, against African Americans--and I think the party is in shambles as far as that goes."
Eddie Arruza (EA): "What can your community do to counter the perception and image out there?"
AR: "..We have to stand with common sense. Here's common sense: you don't look at an organized criminal organization like ISIS and begin to implicate 1.5 billion people who are Muslim around the world. You don't do that with the mafia and Catholics or Italians, you don't do that with the KKK and anyone who is white or has white skin even though they claim to speak for those who are white. We differentiate between organized crime and people at large. When we don't--when we implicate the larger Muslim community, in one conversation after another--that is what contributes to an atmosphere of Islamophobia. That is why we have hate crimes and arsons and vandalizations and people attacked on the streets."
"And let me just say this--Muslims are at the forefront of fighting ISIS--on the ground. It's not just about condemnations...we're professional condemnation people--every day every other day we issue condemnations but more to the point--Muslims are dying at the hands of ISIS more than anybody of any other religion, Muslims are fighting and giving up their lives and limbs fighting ISIS more than anybody of any other religion or faith."
EA: "What are your thoughts [on the "See Something Say Something Billboard"]?" (see below)
AR: "I thought personally it was a bit gimmick-y because it goes without saying that members of our community--our Imans, our leaders, people at large--when they see something, they say something. And also we need to be very careful about what that means: when you see something that is suspicious of criminal action and not someone with a beard or someone with a hijab because oftentimes when people say "see something," they're seeing the wrong thing--we've seen far too many Muslims thrown off of planes because they are speaking Arabic."
EA: "...you have for example the shooting last year in San Bernardino where these two individuals were radicalized in some way--before the shooting nobody had suspected anything about them...do you think that the perception [is that] one doesn't know who might just be radicalized to get to that point?"
AR: "For me, as a Muslim leader, one crime committed by a Muslim is one too many. Let's just be very clear about that. But when you look at the number of mass shootings that occurred in the year that the San Bernardino couple struck--there were 357 acts of mass shootings. Two were committed by Muslims. 355 by people of other backgrounds. And yet, the conversation was as if Muslims are uniquely a threat in this country."
"We are 1% of the American population. We are 10% of its doctors. We are over-represented by 1000% percent when it comes to saving lives in this country. That's not a conversation you hear. Even tonight, let's be frank, the conversation, the context in which we're talking about my religion and my family and my community is one in which we are discussing terrorism and ISIS. We have been, for some reason or another, sort of condemned to being in this very limited frame that doesn't represent our day-to-day lives as Muslims."