Seattle Muslims in a Full Court Victimization Press: “We need to get some type of apology from them and figure out how to get back to where we were.” The FBI agents shouldn’t apologize for doing their jobs and trying to protect people. Gomez is right: “people in those communities have to get over this sensitivity toward feeling victimized.” And instead of resenting anti-terror efforts, some cooperation with them would be most welcome.
An update on this story.
“FBI’s release of ferry passenger photos resented,” by Lornet Turnbull, Janet Tu and Mike Carter for the Seattle Times (thanks to all who sent this in):
For Arabs and Muslims across the Puget Sound area, a rise in the nation’s threat level or a bombing halfway around the world often can mark a period of unease.
In the years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaders in that community say incidents of profiling and harassment have ebbed and flowed “” increasing when Muslims are linked to news of the day.
Now the FBI’s release of photographs of two men of unknown origin, who the agency says were observed acting suspiciously aboard as many as six different Washington ferry routes in recent weeks, is creating new worries in the community.
Muslim- and Arab-American leaders are upset that the FBI didn’t consult them “” as it has done in other instances “” before releasing the photos on the Internet and to news organizations. They worry that the action may fracture the relationship the agency and the community have carefully built.
The FBI has stressed that the release of the photos is a rare move, taken only after it had exhausted other efforts to identify the men. The agency also has said the men’s actions could be innocuous, but it needs to question them.
The photos were snapped by a ferry captain last month after crew members alerted him to suspicious activity. The men seemed inordinately interested in the operation of the vessel, took photographs of the interiors of the boats and went into areas tourists and commuters don’t normally go, the FBI has said. The agency has received many tips but has not yet found the men.
Dozens of Muslims and Arabs have complained to community leaders about the photographs. The fallout has led to a meeting planned today between Muslim- and Arab-American community leaders and law-enforcement officials.
“We need to get some type of apology from them and figure out how to get back to where we were,” said Rita Zawaideh, head of the Arab-American Community Coalition….
Zawaideh said she met with FBI officials about the August incident three days before the agency released the photos of the two men. But the FBI didn’t bring up that subject.
“Why not ask us then and we would have had a way to ask people in the community,” she said.
Gomez said the agency needs to address certain sensitive issues, but “people in those communities have to get over this sensitivity toward feeling victimized.”
Many passengers have been stopped and questioned recently, as the ferry system has stepped up security once the FBI concluded the men might be watching the system. The stops are based on activities, not skin color, Gomez said.
Two days ago, a Seattle Times photographer, who is white, was stopped and questioned after taking photographs near the Mukilteo ferry terminal.
The FBI didn’t take the photos of the two men to the Arab- and Muslim-American community because the agency doesn’t know if the men are Middle Eastern, Gomez added.
“That seems potentially prejudicial to me, and in some ways worse than simply putting [the photos] out the way we did,” Gomez said. “It is not us saying these guys look Middle Eastern.”
Zawaideh countered: “They’re not saying these men are Arabs, but insinuating they are.”
How on earth are they doing that, Zawaideh? They released pictures and said these men were acting suspiciously as reported by many people on several ferries. If they had instead gone to Muslim leaders and asked them for help, as you yourself suggest above, then they would have been announcing in a public way that these guys were Muslims. And I expect if they had approached Muslim leaders with these photos, the leaders would have been outraged, outraged, that the FBI was assuming that the men were Muslims. It’s a no-win situation.
This all comes at a time when some local Muslim and Arab-American leaders say they’ve seen a new spike in discrimination complaints….
Both Zawaideh and S. Arsalan Bukhari, president of the Seattle chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), say their organizations have been receiving more reports lately involving allegations of discrimination.
Bukhari said he’s heard of delays at the border, as well as cases of people being asked questions at the airport and searched so thoroughly they missed their flights.
I’d live with it if it happened to me, Arsalan. Better than getting blown up. At least for some of us.