Arab-Americans Report Rise in Violent, Harassing Incidents With AM-Gulf-Washington War, Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A sharp rise in acts of violence, harassment or intimidation against Arab- Americans since war began in the Persian Gulf was reported Wednesday by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
The civil rights organization reported there had been nearly 100 incidents since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. These include 47 since the war began Jan. 16.
Albert Mokhiber, the group’s president, also raised questions about an FBI interview Monday of an Arab-American government employee who was questioned about attitudes of his ethnic group toward the war.
The interview occurred after the FBI said it had completed contacts with prominent Arab-Americans to solicit information about potential terrorism.
Over the last decade, Arab-Americans were the targets of violence and hate crimes during periods of backlash following terrorist incidents in the Middle East.
But Mokhiber said the 56 reports received last month mark ″the sharpest increase we have seen″ since the organization began compiling reports in 1985.
Reported episodes include threatening phone calls, firebombings of businesses owned by Arab-Americans and assaults.
Among the incidents the group reported was a telephone call received by an Arab-American activist after a peace rally in Richmond, Va. The caller said, ″Stop supporting Saddam or we will blow your house up.″
A Muslim school in Tulsa, Okla., was vandalized and a worship service was interrupted when rocks were thrown through windows, according to the report.
The group also reported that on Jan. 28 a young Arab-American man was attacked by fellow students at George Washington University who yelled an obscenity and said, ″You people are the cause of all problems.″
The incident is being investigated by campus and city police, university officials said.
The FBI is currently investigating more than 30 hate crimes against Arab- Americans that violate federal civil rights laws, said spokesman Bill Carter.
Carter refused to comment on the interview of Ghassan Khalek, an electrical engineer at the Federal Communications Commission who is also a local president of the American Druze Society.
Besides the recently completed contacts of Arab-Americans, Carter said agents are also conducting interviews ″related to ongoing FBI investigative responsibilities″ under Justice Department guidelines.
The FBI interviews have been criticized by Mokhiber and civil libertarians as unfairly casting suspicions on loyal Arab-Americans.
Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif. and chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, said he had asked the FBI to explain what he called the disturbing report of the Khalek interview.
Khalek told reporters that FBI agents who flashed their badges visited his offices last Wednesday, when he was home sick.
When he returned to work the next day, Khalek said, ″everybody in the office knew the FBI was looking for me.″
After making an appointment by phone, the FBI agents interviewed Khalek Monday.
On the advice of a lawyer, who was present, Khalek said he refused to answer questions about the views of Arab-Americans toward the war. ″They wanted to know the American Druze Society’s point of view,″ Khalek said.