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Terrorism Strikes America:
ADL Responds to Violence and Harassment against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against America, ADL has responded to numerous incidents of violence and harassment against Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and other individuals or groups that are perceived to be of Middle Eastern descent. Our message is consistent and clear -- no one should be singled out for hatred, prejudice or blame based on their ethnicity or religion. American unity and democracy is founded on this important ideal.

ADL's 30 regional offices across the country continue to respond to issues of bias and prejudice wherever they unfold. The following is a synopsis of some of those incidents, and responses from ADL leaders:

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Chicago
  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New Jersey
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington D.C.

    Anchorage, Alaska:

    Vandals smashed computers, presses and other equipment at a printing company owned by a prominent Arab-American businessman. The break-in at Frontier Printing Services at West International Airport Road, which police said occurred sometime after hours on September 21 or 22, was discovered when owner Mike Maad's son stopped by the shop to pick up American flags that Maad was distributing in the aftermath of the terrorism attacks. The vandals scrawled "disparaging remarks about the Arab people," said local police officials, who described the attack as a hate crime. The FBI is also investigating.

    ADL's Seattle Regional Office, which covers the Pacific Northwest, expressed shock and outrage at the crime and called on law enforcement authorities to vigorously pursue case. ADL is working with board members and the local Jewish community on ways to reach out and respond to this attack.


    ADL denounced several attacks on Arab Americans in the Greater Chicago area, including an assault on a gas station attendant perceived as Arab American, a Molotov cocktail thrown at the Arab Educational School, and numerous threatening calls directed against Muslim and Arab American institutions.

    Anti-Arab demonstrations in several communities led to 15 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct. During one demonstration near a high school, about 500 to 700 demonstrators gathered. Several demonstrators chanted, "Kill the Arabs."

    "Americans of all backgrounds are understandably horrified and outraged after these despicable terrorist attacks," said Richard S. Hirschhaut, Director of ADL's Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest Region. "But as members of a society based upon respect for the rule of law, it is crucial that we not succumb to scapegoating either through harassment, intimidation or violence."

    In his role as a Commissioner, Hirschhaut also spoke at a Unity Vigil attended by hundreds of Chicagoans sponsored by the Illinois Governor's Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. He joined state and local officials, along with community leaders and representatives of religious groups, in denouncing the targeting of individuals for vigilante attacks.


    A man drove his car through the front entrance of Ohio's largest mosque, The Islamic Center of Cleveland, in an incident police said was related to the terrorist attacks against the U.S. A 29-year-old man arrested at the scene has been charged in the September 17 Mosque attack.

    ADL Associate Regional Director Bettysue Feuer said," We urge all people in our community to reach out to one another and not to begin to accuse any ethnic group of collaborating in this attack."


    Federal authorities and fire officials in Denton, Texas were investigating an attempted firebombing on September 13 of the Islamic Society of Denton mosque. It was the third attack on an area mosque in two days, increasing fears that anger over the terrorist attacks was spilling over onto American Muslims.

    ADL's Dallas Regional Office offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of the mosque attack.

    "Attacks against any houses of worship, as we have seen on Mosques in Irving, Carrollton and Denton are a criminal expression of bigotry that is never justifiable," said Mark L. Briskman, ADL Regional Director. "Such assaults are rooted in the same hatred and bigotry as Tuesday's terrorist attacks." Briskman told The Associated Press it was unfair to attack Muslim Americans. "Most are decent, honorable, law-abiding citizens as heartbroken as any American," he said. ADL's reward was highlighted in the Dallas Morning News. The Morning News published a letter to the editor from Lawrence Rosenbloom, ADL Regional Chairman, and Mr. Briskman, responding to the attacks against Muslim Americans.


    On the day after the September 11 attacks, a small explosion ripped a hole in the window of a convenience store on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. The attackers left a note that said "Paul Revere Society" on the window of the store, which is run by a Pakistani immigrant. The following night, attackers detonated a small explosive device at a convenience store on Castor Avenue owned by a Syrian immigrant, again leaving behind a note with the words, "Paul Revere Society." No injuries were reported in either incident.

    On September 13, a 52-year-old man was arrested on assault, ethnic intimidation and other charges after attacking a man he believed to be an Arab on a Philadelphia public bus. The following day, two men were arrested and charged with terroristic threats, ethnic intimidation, disorderly conduct and harassment for allegedly threatening three Indian born Sikhs at a gas station in Berks County.

    In Allentown, Pa., a mosque canceled services on September 14 after receiving harassing voice mail and e-mail messages, including one that threatened to "blow up" the Mosque. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission was investigating a second incident where an apparent skinhead was seen distributing anti-Arab leaflets.

    Other incidents reported to police in eastern Pennsylvania communities included assaults on "foreign looking" taxi drivers, an assault on a Tunisian immigrant in Philadelphia, and threatening phone calls placed to local Mosques and Islamic centers.

    ADL's Philadelphia Regional Office has been working with police and community members in the wake of these and other recent incidents.


    At least one Islamic school in the Houston area was forced to remain closed in the wake of the terrorist attacks because of a fear of a possible anti-Muslim backlash.

    A Pakistani-owned Goodyear tire store was set on fire in southwest Houston. The owner told the news media that three men flew into a violent rage when they noticed that his name was Pakistani.

    ADL leaders in Houston called on community members to reject hatred and prejudice. "I think that's the feeling all Americans want to have," Martin Cominsky, ADL Regional Director, told Houston's KPRC-TV. "They want to live freely and safely and not be burdened by this kind of unconscionable revenge and terrorism that is directed against the wrong people."

    Los Angeles:

    ADL and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for the September 17 assault of a Saudi student of City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. The assault of Sari Asiri has been described by law enforcement authorities as a hate crime. The student was assaulted by two men who stopped to ask for directions, and attacked him after learning his national origin.

    Police and the FBI are investigating the September 15 shooting of an Arab American shopkeeper as a possible hate crime. Relatives said they believed Adel Karas, 48, who left Egypt in the late 1970s to escape religious persecution, was killed at his grocery store in San Gabriel by someone in response to the terrorist attacks.

    In San Dimas, a Latino gas station attendant was pulled from his car and threatened by a group of men with guns. Police said the men apparently mistook the man for a Middle Easterner.

    In an effort to promote unity and a cohesive stand against hate in the Desert Areas, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission will hold a press conference with diverse leaders of this community on Thursday, September 27th. ADL's statement denouncing bigotry and scapegoating will be presented by members of the Commission.

    As of September 22, authorities have reported more than 40 hate-related incidents targeting Arab Americans in Los Angeles County, including assaults, bomb threats and anti-Arab graffiti.

    Miami, Florida:

    ADL's Miami Regional Office has been working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to address issues of harassment and other crimes against Muslim Americans and attacks on Islamic property.

    In response to the increased concern over hate incidents in both the Muslim and Jewish communities following the September 11 terrorist attacks, FDLE will distribute ADL's hate crimes information cards -- specifically designed for law enforcement - to every police officer in the state. FDLE ordered 50,000 cards and featured the project on its Web site.

    On October 5, 2001, Art Teitelbaum, ADL's Southern Area Director, testified in Orlando before the Florida House of Representatives' Select Committee On Security on hate motivated crimes, particularly against Muslims and Islamic community property.

    In addition, the Miami Regional Office has responded to several specific bias incidents in the state, including:

      St. Petersburg

      On October 1, 2001, residents in St. Petersburg, Fla., found fliers on their lawns and in mailboxes from the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group with anti-Semitic and racist beliefs. Some of the fliers attributed the September 11 terrorist attacks to "an alliance with Israel," and stated that "the Jewish cause is not the American cause."

      Teitelbaum said the National Alliance has increased its membership and activity in the Tampa Bay area in the past few years.

      "This is a crude effort to gain publicity and sway public opinion toward their views," Teitelbaum told the St. Petersburg Times.

      Boca Raton

      An anti-Semitic message that referred to Jews as "usurpers and aggressors" who are "known for their treachery and corruption throughout the world" appeared briefly on the Web site of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton. Muslim and Jewish community leaders as condemned the message, which was removed on or about Sept. 19 after inquiries by the news media.

      Islamic Center leaders disavowed the anti-Semitic message, saying it had been posted without their knowledge or consent.

      In an interview with the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Teitelbaum called the article a document "filled with poisonous anti-Semitism."

    New Jersey:

    Muslims in Paterson and other communities reported incidents of anti-Arab harassment. Several groups received threatening telephone messages and a window was broken at a mosque in Toms River. In one incident, a false rumor circulated that Muslims in Paterson had staged a celebratory demonstration and rioted in a city neighborhood after the World Trade Center tragedy.

    Shai Goldstein, Director of the ADL New Jersey Regional Office, issued a statement condemning attacks on houses of worship and declaring Islam a valuable part of America's faith community. His statement was published as part of a news story and was featured as part of an editorial in The Bergen Record.

    "The existence of all of these religions on American soil is a prime source of our strength as a nation and as a people," Mr. Goldstein said. "We must stay focused on the facts and condemn all stereotypes and expressions of bigotry."

    San Francisco

    ADL's San Francisco office is working with law enforcement and community leaders in Concord, California following a vicious attack on the local Islamic Center. The center's windows were smashed in the early morning hours of December 9, 2001 by vandals in an attack police have described as an apparent hate crime.

    The League has taken a lead role in condemning the crime. Police have arrested two juveniles, ages 14 and 16, on charges of defacing a place of worship.

    "It is important that the entire community send a strong message to those who advocate hatred and reject their attempts to divide us," said Jonathan Bernstein, ADL San Francisco Regional Director. "Acts of religious intimidation, such as the attack on this Islamic Center, are especially harmful in the pain and fear they inflict on an entire community. Every voice in the Bay Area must speak together in condemning the vicious acts of haters."

    Police said two men wearing dark hooded sweatshirts threw rocks through the front window of the Islamic Center of Contra Costa. No one was injured in the attack, though many parishioners were worshipping inside at the time.

    In the Bay Area, Afghan and Iranian restaurants in San Francisco were defaced. One restaurant was attacked with bottles and rocks; mosques and individuals continued to receive threats by phone and e-mail.

    Arab Americans, Afghans, Sikhs, Iranians and members of other immigrant groups have been singled out for criticism because of their appearance. In response to those and other incidents, ADL has been in contact with local Muslim leaders to express support, ADL Regional Director Jonathan Bernstein told the San Jose Mercury News.

    "It's critically important when communities are being targeted that they're not made to feel all alone and unprotected by the law," Mr. Bernstein said. "An attack on any segment of our community is an attack on all of us."


    In Tacoma, Wash., police are investigating a series of anti-Semitic hate crimes against a local synagogue, including arson. On September 25, firefighters responded to a fire that was started under a natural-gas service line near Temple Beth El and a second fire near a corner of the building. The fires caused several hundred dollars in damage at the temple, which was also recently targeted by vandalism and a bomb threat.

    Following the terrorism attacks, the message "Zionism + U.S. = 5,000 dead" was spray-painted on the building. While police said the incidents were not directly related to the terrorism against America, the graffiti clearly made reference to the number presumed killed in the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

    ADL's Seattle Regional Office has been coordinating with police and the community to respond to this incident

    Mosques received threatening phone calls and a number of callers to local crisis lines threatened violence against Muslim residents. There was an attempted arson and shooting at a Mosque in the Northgate area of Seattle. A Somali woman was threatened with a knife at a local market in south Seattle.

    In Washington State, which has a substantial Muslim population, police and community leaders expressed concern about the safety of Muslim residents and local mosques.

    "It's important we send the message out not to racially profile anyone based on their national origin or religion," Brian Goldberg, ADL Regional Director, told the Seattle Times.

    Washington, D.C.

    The League's Washington, D.C. Regional Office responded to a report that bricks were thrown through the window of the Old Town Islamic Bookstore. A note attached to one of the bricks said, "Death to Arab Murderers."

    "Threats and physical violence directed at members of the Arab American or Muslim community are repugnant, and the perpetrators of such acts must be brought to justice," said David Friedman, ADL Regional Director. "Outrage over the coordinated terrorist attacks that took place on September 11 cannot justify the commission of hate crimes."

    At the request of ADL, Roscoe C. Howard Jr., the new U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, convened a special meeting of the D.C. Bias Crimes Task Force to respond to reports of hate crimes committed against Arab-Americans and Muslims in the region.

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