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Arab-Americans Decry TV Drama

February 10, 1986

DETROIT (AP) _ A television drama about Middle Eastern terrorists operating from a Detroit suburb is part of a barrage of anti-Arab propaganda that threatens the safety of Arab-Americans, community spokesmen say.

″Under Siege,″ broadcast Sunday night by NBC, depicted terrorism conducted by a group based in Dearborn, a city of about 91,000 bordering Detroit on the west.

There are an estimated 20,000 people of Arab descent living in the Detroit area, with 7,564 Arab-Americans in Dearborn, according to the 1980 Census.

″We do not want to further increase the atmosphere that Arab Americans are fair game and a suspect community,″ said Abdeen Jabara, a Detroit attorney and vice chairman of the Washington-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimina tion Committee.

″This is occurring at a time when a spate of movies are being shown ... which portray Arabs or Middle Easterners as violent, terroist-bent, bloodthirsty - which creates a frenzied atmosphere,″ Jabara said Sunday.

In Denver, meanwhile, Moslems picketed the local affiliate of NBC as a protest against the showing of ″Under Siege″ and the local affiliate of ABC- TV, which showed the first episode of a two-part mini-series called ″Harem.″

Officials at KCNC showed ″Under Siege″ intact but agreed to preface it with a disclaimer reading: ″This program you are about to see raises important civil liberties questions. It is fictional and not intended to reflect adversely upon the character of law-abiding Arab-Americans or American Muslim communities.″

Detroit-area Arab-Americans sought without success to have Detroit NBC- affiliate WDIV delete references to Dearborn from ″Under Siege.″

About 50 protesters picketed outside the station Saturday and about 400 people called the station about the show, 250 of them while it was on the air, said WDIV spokeswoman Eileen Wunderlich.

″Most of the calls were calls critical of showing the movie,″ Wunderlich said. ″They objected to Dearborn or Detroit being mentioned.″

Warren David, director of the Arab-American Media Society, said that wasn’t enough.

″The overall theme of the movie is that there are a bunch of terrorists in Dearborn and they are plotting to overthrow the government,″ said Warren after previewing the film last week at WDIV with other Arab-American community leaders.

″When I saw Dearborn on the screen, I couldn’t help but think that this is going to provoke a very serious response in the community,″ David said.

″Arab-Americans feel that in this country there is a great deal of anti- Arab feeling,″ said spokesman Stephen Menick of the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee. ″We feel that we have been singled out by the entertainment industry, which plays upon the emotions of the hour.

The Justice Department ordered the FBI in December to investigate recent bombings of the offices of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, including an October attack in California that killed a regional director of the organization.

On Aug. 2, a pipe bomb found outside the group’s Boston office exploded in the face of a police officer, severely wounding him. In December, a fire heavily damaged its Washington headquarters.

″We have to explain to Americans that we are ones who feel under siege,″ Jabara said.

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