We must distinguish between the "dull virtue" of tolerance, he said, and actually embracing new ethnic groups; it is the nature of this beast to diversify more and more with each generation. Witness the number of languages we now can choose among when using ATMs--and there are so many more spoken in this country.
In the very un-American toxic air after 9/11, the bulk of the hate crimes committed in the following decade occurred in the first three weeks. In response, a new position was created in the Department of Justice, that of Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination.
But much remains to be done.
Stuart J. Ishimaru, commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said that the number of charges of employment discrimination skyrocketed 250 percent and has tripled over the years since then, particularly in Texas, California, Arizona, and elsewhere. Progress has been made, he said, and he looks forward to more.
Farhana Khera, board member of the group Muslim Advocates, said she worked to organize coalitions across the country to combat discrimination in the form of racial and religious profiling and to strengthen Muslim communities while at the same time fighting against allowed surveillance.
In the wake of 655 hate crimes committed the first week after 9/11, even President George W. Bush spoke out against the lethal stereotyping of all Muslims based on the perverted extremism of a pathetic few. He made clear, publicly, that the 9/11 hijackers were distorters of Islam.
It was an experience in itself to hear the name of Bush mentioned favorably throughout the panel discussions, but always referring back to his stance against blind discrimination born of scapegoatism born of that shock heard round the world.
Said Amardeep Singh, director of programs for the Sikh Coalition, the issues born of 9/11 are still very much with us today. Quoting Martin Luther King, that the long moral arc of history bends toward justice, he said he maintains his optimism while recalling the most horrible moment of his life--when his mother told him, on the day of the attacks, to take off his turban and he refused.
Violence against Sikhs happened quickly after 9/11. In Providence, Rhode Island, a Sikh man was arrested for carrying around a religious object that looked like a sword, a kirpan.
All Muslims were forced to register their presence here; twelve hundred were held for criminal investigation and tens of thousands were deported, staining the image of this country irreparably; the U.S. government owes these people a formal apology, said Singh.
Added James J. Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, his department was located next to the White House, but evacuation was not possible since their phones were ringing off the hook reporting threats and fears. His office was given police protection.
"We lived 9/11," he said. Each of us has a personal story of how we experienced it individually. The United States was analogous to a human body, he said, that had been traumatized and then went into shock. We were in mourning. But, he added, he was told by many, "you, because you're a Muslim, cannot be part of this mourning."
In the midst of the mayhem, said Zogby, Senator Ted Kennedy phoned him to tell him about protective legislation he was working on and a Japanese-American memorial to say "never again."
Overt Threats have lessened in favor of institutional discrimination, for example opposition to the building of mosques. Eighty thousands Muslims did not register their presence and to this day are in hiding and can't be accounted for.
Hatred of Muslims is evident in the Republican debates now being telecast, he said. Further, an industry of hate is fomenting hate and hasn't gone away. Organizations persist in legitimizing hatred. There are two Americas: one tolerant and accepting of Muslims and one that opposes these hapless Americans.
Questions from the audience, selected by Roy Austin from index cards submitted, clarified that Muslim youth were becoming more engaged in combatting the prejudices against them; that investigations conducted after 9/11 on behalf of national security were hugely intimidating and other methods might have created less fear and panic.