Arab-Americans Urge Caution over Y2K Fears

Washington, D.C., Dec. 23 — Officials of the American-Arab Anti-ADC Press Release:
Arab-Americans Urge Caution over Y2K Fears Washington D.C., Dec. 23 — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation‘s largest Arab-American grassroots organization, shares the concern of the American government and society about tensions surrounding the upcoming Millennium celebrations. While there are many sources of possible danger in coming weeks, one of the gravest is that an over-reaction by authorities could lead a disregard for civil liberties.
Already there are disturbing signs of such a trend. In Washington, D.C., on Dec. 21, gas station attendants reported a van to authorities as “suspicious” because two men filling it “appeared to be Middle Eastern.” This report, which based suspicion on the supposed identity of the drivers, led to an all-points bulletin search for a blue 1989 Mitsubishi van by the FBI and police. And in New York, an Arab-American off-duty pilot, who was ordered to leave Continental Flight 133 after an argument over his baggage, has been charged with making a “terrorist threat” for mentioning a bomb. Mohamed Hassan Helal reportedly told airline workers that “You have to remove my bags. They could have a bomb. You don’t know. I’m a pilot. I know the rules.” Major media sources have also been fueling the growing panic by featuring “terrorism experts” whose stock-in-trade is promoting fear and hatred of Arabs by drawing a false linkage between Arabic culture or Islam and terrorism, and by suggesting that there is a world-wide conflict between the Arab world and the United States.
ADC strongly feels that, while concern is shared by all, we must never forget that excessive fear can lead to serious constitutional and human rights abuses. Vigilance in defense of safety must be tempered with due regard for constitutional and civil liberties.
ADC President Hala Maksoud said that “Arab-Americans are just as concerned about the treat of terrorism as anyone else. But we are also mindful of the dangers of guilt by ethnicity or religious affiliation.
This leads to the targeting of whole communities, and innocents paying the price. We hope that this will not be the case during this new year, as it was after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1996. “

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