August 26, 2010
In a recent interview, University of Michigan professor Scott Kurashige, author of The Shifting Ground of Race, notes a parallel between the hostility toward Japanese-Americans during WWII and hostility toward Muslims in America today. Kurashige notes that in both cases, the United States was attacked on its own soil by a foreign enemy, leaving Americans sharing either the religious beliefs or ethnicity of the attackers the targets of their fellow citizens. In the case of Japanese-Americans, organizations like the Anti-Asiatic Association and the Asian Exclusion Association attempted to designate certain areas off limits to non-whites and protested the building of Buddhist temples and even Japanese Christian churches. Eventually, this threatened to interfere with the US government's efforts to convince East Asian nations they hoped to align with that this was not a war of race.
Likewise, today Mayor Mike Bloomberg contended that anti-Muslim sentiment—and the stabbing of a New York City Muslim cab driver today—would only further strain relations with moderate Muslims around the world, in addition to threatening the safety and religious freedom of a good number of Americans. While it's unlikely Muslim Americans will suffer the same fate the Japanese-Americans did in the 1940s, the careless rhetoric in opposition to the Muslim center on both the left and the right (it seems we finally have bipartisanship) is especially disturbing in light of today's attack. Fortunately, Mayor Bloomberg is showing moral leadership on this issue when so few others have the courage to.
You can listen to the short interview here.
UPDATE: From Sam Stein at the Huffington Post and the parties' new bipartisanship:
A progressive non-profit group supporting the Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan released a video on Thursday chastising prominent Democrats for enabling the anti-Muslim sentiment that led to the stabbing of a cab driver this week.
The New York-based Agenda Project took aim at some unusual suspects in its latest push to coalesce public opinion around the building of the Cordoba House. In the latest in a series of videos, the group named former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, New York Gov. David Patterson, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid along with Newt Gingrich, John McCain, and Sarah Palin as culprits to blame for an environment of prejudice against Muslim Americans.