It is extremely hard to write this morning, and yet I feel I have to.
Everything hurts so much. After a few hours sleep, I woke up in the
hoping and praying that I had woken up from a nightmare. The nightmare
still there. Today, as dawn breaks over New York City and the country,
will start to come face to face with the enormous tragedy and crime that
struck yesterday, and we will begin to learn of countless thousands of
families whose loved ones have been ripped from them. They have will
names and faces. It is beyond imagination and comprehension.
Since yesterday the newscasts have been rife with speculation about who
could have carried out this awful crime. File footage of Ussama Bin
appears on every screen. Rumors of Arabs being arrested, or
Arabic-language materials being found by police are already being made
much of. On top of the pain we are all feeling for the continuing
this fills me with fear. The fact is no one yet knows who was capable of
such a sophisticated assault on the world's most powerful country.
National Public Radio this morning focused on reports of TV pictures of
Palestinians celebrating at the blow struck against the United States.
These images fill me with disgust and shame that anyone could put on
a display. Peter Jennings on ABC News was more careful in his analysis,
pointing out that while some Palestinians in the occupied territories
have felt that way, his experience in the Middle East suggests that many
many more people all over the Arab world will be feeling sadness and
shock, "because of their deep attachments to the United States." He
for example that more people from the "deeply troubled" Palestinian city
of Ramallah live in the United States than in Ramallah itself. That is
experience too. I have not spoken to one person who is not utterly
horrified by what has happened.
I will not here try to explain why some Palestinians may have felt joy
seeing America humiliated, and dealt a horrible blow. If I had been
bombardment and siege for more than a year and occupation for more than
three decades, I hope that I would keep my humanity and not surrender to
the basest emotions, and I am sure that most Palestinians have not.
all our attention was focused on the unfolding events in the United
States, nine Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces attacked the
city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank last night, and another three
Palestinians were killed elsewhere. Eleven more people died. A
ridiculously small number compared to what the United States has just
suffered, but another enormous, unbearable tragedy for each of their
families. As enormous and unbearable as each loss suffered by the
and that will be suffered by so many American families.
I hope too that Americans will maintain their humanity and not surrender
to their basest feelings as understandable anger, frustration and grief
rise. Arabs and Muslims in America now live with real fear and
apprehension. From early yesterday morning, I began receiving to my
website, as well as to the email of the Arab American Action Network
messages that only deepened the pain of the day.
"You are going to feel the wrath of all Americans. LEAVE this country
while you can. ALL ARABS ARE COWARDS AND BARBARIANS. DEATH TO ALL ARABS
ALL PERSIANS ALL MUSLIMS!!!!!!!" wrote Darrell Hawley, adding for good
measure that Arabs, Muslims and "Persians" "deserve nothing less than
"Pay back time...will come soon," was the simple message from somebody.
Doug asked "Ali, why do your people love when civilians are killed. You
"Dear dirty towel-heads," wrote Brook Shuler, "Please take your
misogynistic and murdering religion back to the Middle East. We have
tolerated you disgusting people long enough in our country." Brook added
"I hope the US wipes out every man, women and child Arab in the middle
east. You people, like the AIDS virus, are a disease of this world. I
rest more easily when all of you are dead."
This is just a sampling of what I received. While I am fortunate to have
received only words of hate, I fear others may be victims of much worse.
But this is not the whole story, and this is not the America I know and
that I was born in that is speaking. What made a far greater impression
me were the many messages of support from friends and strangers.
"Do not be discouraged and do not let these few angry people blemish the
good image you have of Americans," wrote Gabor Mester.
Marc from California wrote "I am a Jewish American. I am grateful for
work, and for your existence. We are in this together. Whatever happens,
we are all Americans and world citizens. We are people of good will and
peace, and this tragedy is all of ours."
An unidentified person wrote "A lot of us know, even it actually happens
that these terrorists are of Arab-origins, they do not speak for all of
the Arab people. The same way Timothy Mc Veigh was not representative of
the American people."
"I am an American citizen who is deeply concerned for the safety of all
our Arab-American citizens. My ancestors were European but I consider
myself to be just another human being in the larger family of human
beings. I am very fond of the Arabic people and culture. I most
hope that each and everyone of you remains safe, and free of injury to
your persons, your homes, and your businesses. Love and peace to each of
you" was the message from "C.G."
At my work place, so many of my colleagues came to my office to ask
my family. Many friends in New York offered to take them in. My sister,
her husband and their young daughter live literally in the shadow of the
World Trade Center. The worst moment of my life was watching on TV as
first World Trade Center tower collapsed on to their neighborhood. I
an intensely agonizing time yesterday morning before I could get in
with them and learn that they were safe and reassure the rest of my
family. They are now in a hotel, unable to go home, but they are safe.
many thousands of people are not so lucky and are still waiting in agony
for news of their loved ones. Friends from non-Arab organizations in
Chicago came forward to say they will hold a press conference today to
urge their fellow citizens not to take part in a backlash and to realize
that whoever is responsible for this awful crime, that does not make
millions of people guilty.
It is this caring, compassionate America I will choose to see. It is
America that helped me get through my day yesterday and that will help
millions of people to survive hardest days yet to come. It is this
that I will continue to be a part of and to stand with in the face of
enormous evil and tragedy. I hope too that this America will stand with
Arab Americans, Muslims and all others who may be targeted or defamed
because of what happened. I hope that people in the Middle East will
with Americans in human solidarity as we here have stood with people in
the Middle East and supported them as they too have been victimized by
senseless violence, loss and ongoing injustice.
I hope that we will all use words and take actions that will heal and
support each other and try to maintain our calm and humanity in the face
of incalculable suffering and sadness.