Contact: June Hibino (310) 710-1449

Event on 9/9 to take place at the plaza in front of the
Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC)

Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), in cooperation with the JACCC and other groups invite the community to come out to the plaza in front of the JACCC on Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m., to show support for Muslim Americans who are increasingly being subjected to a hateful campaign of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam lies and attacks.

Nine years ago -- just days after Sept. 11 – NCRR, along with other organizations including the Japanese American Citizens League PSW, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the Japanese American National Museum and the Little Tokyo Service Center CDC, sponsored a candlelight vigil in Little Tokyo to remember the victims of 9/11 and to speak in defense of Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and South Asians who were being maligned as terrorists, physically attacked and even murdered in places such as Arizona.

Since 9/11 attempts to marginalize and target Muslim Americans as a “suspect” community sympathetic to terrorism have increased as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dragged on and terrorist incidents throughout the world continue. Politicians and right-wing commentators such as Sara Palin and Newt Gingrich have seized upon people’s fears of terrorism, using the opportunity to spread lies and distortions about Muslim Americans and Islam, thereby boosting their ratings and popularity among conservatives. This ignorance and fear is also reflected in the growing opposition to the building of mosques in places such as Manhattan, Nashville and Temecula. Mosques are being described as dangerous and threatening to the “American” way of life and Islam is even being maligned as a religion "of the devil" by religious zealots, such as Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida who plans to burn the Quran on 9/11.

Despite attempts by Muslim American organizations, mosques, non-Muslim religious leaders, educators and others to educate the American public that true Islam has nothing to do with 9/11 or other despicable terrorist attacks, the perception that all Muslims are terrorists and that Islam preaches terrorism stubbornly remains.

Japanese Americans remember all too well how it feels to be a community singled out with suspicion, marginalized and viciously attacked by the media. Despite many efforts to show their loyalty to this country, Japanese were not trusted as reflected in General DeWitt’s statements: “A Jap is a Jap” and “I have no confidence in their loyalty whatsoever.” The constant barrage of lies in the media became accepted as truth by the American public. Only a few groups like the American Friends Service Committee and courageous individuals were willing to speak up for the Japanese.

Although the situation is not as dire for Muslim Americans now as it was for Japanese Americans during World War II, NCRR is concerned that the climate of intolerance and fear being created could, under certain circumstances, lead to the stripping of civil liberties and religious freedom for Muslim Americans. Even worse is the violence resulting from such ignorance, such as the stabbing in New York last month of a 44-yr old taxi driver after his passenger asked if he was a Muslim.

NCRR encourages Japanese Americans and all Americans to speak out against anti-Muslim lies and attacks. At a speech given several years ago, Dr. Maher Hathout, a Muslim American leader, said “as long as there is one candle lit, there is no darkness.” Speaking symbolically, he was referring to the struggle of the Palestinian people against occupation -- that as long as there was even one person willing to struggle against injustice, there could not be total darkness or oppression. In a similar spirit, NCRR hopes that many candles can be lit Sept. 9, to show the American people’s commitment to the truth – not lies and distortions – and for justice, peace, religious freedom and equality – precious values that we hold dear.

For more information, contact NCRR at (213) 284-0336. The vigil will start at 7:30 p.m. and will include several speakers, with the entire program lasting one hour.