Muslim and Arab-American leaders condemned Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and pleaded with the American public not to take out its anger on their communities.
In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said neighborhoods with large Arab-American populations would receive extra police protection to protect against backlash incidents, reported the Associated Press (AP).
Vitriolic anti-Arab and anti-Muslim messages were spreading on the Internet, in threatening phone calls to groups in Washington, Los Angeles and San Jose, and in insults shouted on a street in Chicago, the AP said.
"Now maybe all decent people will realize ... that the sub-human Arab maggot scum must be dealt with," read a message in an online discussion of Middle East politics.
In an America Online chat room, many used racial slurs against Arabs.
One person instructed others to "Boycott Arabian Owned Business," and another wrote, "KILL ALL ARABS." The messages were written by people using online monikers, not their real names.
The Web discussions were just what Arab-American and American Muslim leaders said they feared as they pleaded for calm.
"Regardless of who is ultimately found to be responsible for these terrorist murders, no ethnic or religious community should be treated as suspect and collectively blamed," the Arab American Institute said in a statement, cited by news agencies.
“It's very important right now for Arab-Americans that their loyalty never be brought into question. We are Americans first,” said Fuad Sahouri, Chairman, Arab-American Business and Professional Association.
The group's Washington office received at least a dozen phone calls from people saying the group would "pay for this" and telling them to "go home," said Jenny Salan, the group's media director.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles and the Islamic Networks Group in San Jose also reported calls with death threats, obscenities and racial slurs.
In Chicago, Mustafa Yassin of the Arab American Action Network said he and three others were closing the office when a middle-aged man drove by and threatened them.
Arab-American leaders said their community is as devastated by the attacks as the rest of the nation.
"We have friends and family who work in that building, the World Trade Center. We have family and friends that worked at the Pentagon," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. "While we would like to mourn like everybody else in America, we end up looking over our shoulder because someone is pointing a finger.” – Albawaba.com
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