Detention of Arab Americans – Must History Repeat Itself?

    An Arab American in Oregon, Maher Hawash, has been detained two weeks as a material witness without formal charges filed against him (Houston Chronicle, 4/4/03, 4/5/03). We are witnessing a repeat of injustices against Americans because of the country of their birth or their ancestry.

    Recently, Rep. H. Coble (D – N.C.; chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security) justified the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II because he claims that it was done for their protection. The real situation is described by a quote from Secretary Norman Mineta: “More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes,” recalled Mr. Mineta. “My family and I were among them. “We were kept behind barbed wire for no reason other than our race. No charges were filed, no trials were held, and no one spoke out on our behalf. We were told it was for our own protection.” Even at the young age of 11, this seemed incongruous to him. “If it was for our own protection, then why were the machine guns pointed at us?”

    It was not long ago that Dr. Wen Ho Lee was detained for over a year, much in solitary confinement, with all but one charged finally dismissed.

    What were the citizens of Germany thinking while the Jews were sent to the concentration camps? Are we going to quietly allow injustices against Arab Americans in the name of homeland security?

George J. Hirasaki, Ph.D.
President, Houston Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League
Bellaire, TX