Bloomberg's warning against anti-Muslim bias hits home

Saturday, May 15, 2010

After the recent Times Square car-bomb attempt, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that "bias or backlash against any Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers" would not be tolerated ["A threat's new face," op-ed, May 5]. The mayor's statement seemed unnecessary at the time. Whatever the shortcomings of 21st-century Americans, open bias against Muslims did not, as far as I could see, appear to be one of them. Until it happened to me this week.

A vaguely Protestant, middle-aged, Chicago native of German and Italian ancestry who sports a long salt-and-pepper beard à la James A. Garfield -- or, more to the point, Osama bin Laden -- I was told by a fellow white, middle-aged American that I should "leave the country." Granted the subway car where this advice was tendered was hot, crowded and delayed. And granted the advice-giver was annoyed at having had to squeeze into a space several sizes too small for her. Still, the unvarnished bias came as a surprise to me. Mayor Bloomberg's warning was, I am sorry to have learned, necessary after all.

John F. Herrmann, Arlington


© 2010 The Washington Post Company