Posted on January 26, 2008 in Press Releases
WASHINGTON – The Arab American Institute is deeply concerned by recent attacks on three Palestinian students at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
According to the Wilmington Star, Faris Khader, Osama Sabbah and Omar Awartani were “beaten with fists, feet and brass knuckles in an attack early Saturday involving at least 15 members of the school's football team…The attackers called the Palestinians ‘terrorists’ and used racial slurs during the attack.”
“This is a hate crime plain and simple and should be treated on the federal level as such,” said AAI President James Zogby. “It is a sad fact that a crime of this sort takes place because of the increasing tolerance in the national discourse of bigotry towards Arabs and Muslims.
“There is a need for national recognition that the effect of negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims has created a dangerous environment where incidents like this can occur. If we don't take corrective action to protect our American values of tolerance and respect for others and our sense of community, attacks such as these will only get worse,” Zogby said.
Elected officials from North Carolina have been amongst the most egregious offenders in polluting the public discourse. In a February 2003 radio interview, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) supported the FDR Administration’s decision to intern Japanese Americans during World War II, stating some Japanese Americans “probably were intent on doing harm to us, just as some of these Arab Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us.”
Also in 2003, commenting on threats to national security, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) said, “Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.”
Last year, AAI and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee launched a successful campaign to stop the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License inflammatory outdoor advertising campaign. The billboards stated, “Don't License Terrorists, North Carolina” and included a picture of a man wearing a traditional Arab head scarf and holding a driver's license and grenade.
Guilford President Kent Chabotar responded to the incident responsibly, saying, “It is a fundamental testimony of the Quaker faith and a core value of Guilford College that all persons are equal and deserve respectful treatment.
“While this is a rare occurrence and facts are still being gathered, the College will not tolerate physical violence or verbal abuse by members of its community against other persons inside or outside of the community,” he added.
AAI appreciates the proactive approach of Guildford officials and calls upon government officials at the highest levels to actively reverse this disturbing trend.
About the Arab American Institute
Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. For more information on AAI, please visit www.aaiusa.org or call 202-429-9210.