Arab Americans Report Abuse
U.-Mich. Study Finds Nearly 60 Percent Fear for Families
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; Page A05
Fifteen percent of Arab Americans in the Detroit area said they have experienced harassment or intimidation since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a significant number wish other Americans understood them better, according to a University of Michigan report to be released today.
Derogatory comments -- "Go back where you came from!" or "Ooh, are you a member of al Qaeda?" -- were the most common form of abuse. Others alleged job discrimination and a small number reported physical assaults, researchers said.
Forty-two percent of Muslim Arabs interviewed for the survey in Detroit -- an area with one of the largest concentrations of Arab Americans in the nation -- feel their religion is not respected by mainstream society. Nearly 60 percent said they worry more about their families' future than before the attacks.
The report comes as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, among other groups, relays a steady stream of allegations of poor treatment of Muslims in this country. Many Muslims have complained that harassment and unfair law enforcement tactics are byproducts of the Bush administration's battle against terrorism.
Wayne Baker, the Institute for Social Research professor who led the Michigan study, said Arabs and Chaldeans -- mostly Iraqi Christians -- suffered from misinformation and stereotypes that flowed into a void after the terrorist attacks.
"After 9/11, it was very clear that most Americans knew very little about Arab Americans," Baker said. The report also found that 50 percent of respondents believe U.S. news coverage is biased against Muslims.
Researcher Sally Howell said violent incidents were few, with 3 percent reporting a "serious" negative experience. One said a relative had been beaten. Another said a neighbor had held a gun on his family.
Some of the 1,016 Arab American respondents reported harassment at shopping malls or job supervisors turning cold. They included complaints such as one from a store worker who said a customer often greeted him with the crack "How's Osama doing?"
Howell said the news was not all bad. Thirty-three percent of respondents said a non-Arab had offered a helping hand or a positive comment since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The researchers found a wide gap in views on how Arab Americans should be treated in the anti-terrorism struggle. Forty-nine percent of the general population said in a parallel survey that they would support increasing surveillance of Arab Americans. Seventeen percent of the Arabs and Chaldeans agreed.
Similarly, 41 percent of the general population would uphold Arab American detention even without enough evidence to prosecute and 23 percent said they would favor increased police power to stop and search Arab Americans.
Only 38 percent of 508 members of the general population surveyed by researchers said they believe Arab Americans are doing all they can to stop terrorist attacks, the report said. The percentage of Arabs and Chaldeans who said so was 73.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company