After several thousand people were killed in the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001, over 300 Japanese Americans gathered in Little Tokyo for a candlelight vigil to show our support to the victims and families of the 9/11 attacks. Today, we again express our outrage and sympathy to the people of Paris, and now San Bernardino as well as so many others victimized by individuals acting out of hate and intolerance.
We also want to reach out to the American Muslim, South Asian and Arab American communities who are being blamed for these attacks, just as they were after 9/11 when they immediately faced racial profiling and physical assaults.
Through the campaign for redress and our work in civil rights, the Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) has learned how important the expressions of friendship and the protection of our constitutional rights were to our community during World War II. We learned how thankful the Nisei and Issei were to people like Ralph Lazo and groups like the American Friends Service Committee and others who came to their defense.
We were a small and isolated group, just as the American Muslim and Arab Americans are, and we did not want another group to be victimized by hysteria, race or religious prejudice and failure of political leadership.
After 9/11, we built a relationship of trust and friendship with the American Muslim community here in Los Angeles, working with the Southern California Shura Council, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American Islamic Relations. Over the past almost 15 years, NCRR held workshops together, went to Manzanar Pilgrimages, broke bread at Ramadan “Break the Fast” events and created a program called “Bridging Communities” to help our young people get to know each other’s history, values and communities better.
In the process, we have learned about Islam and know that it does not support violence or hate, but rather peace and compassion. Time and again, we witnessed the questioning of American Muslim community’s loyalty just as the Japanese Americans’ was in question. They too have had to speak out each time there has been a terroristattack as if they are to blame. They are not.
Yet it is happening again today. After these recent attacks, we hear anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim comments against American Muslims and proposals to bar Syrian refugees from entering this country. Again, we hear justification of the incarceration of Japanese Americans by a mayor in Virginia over 25 years after the U.S. government acknowledged its mistakes and apologized to the Japanese American community. In this election year, we hear candidates call for the monitoring of whole groups of people based on race or religion. And we have heard from our American Muslim friends that they are fearful and that mosques are being vandalized.
We joined them at the Federal Building when the Immigration and Naturalization Service (ICE today) conducted special registration of mainly men from Muslim countries, we joined them in protesting any monitoring of their communities by the LAPD, and we join them today in speaking out against the hysteria and religious intolerance that will blame American Muslims, South Asians or Arab Americans for these attacks. We believe that building understanding and friendship is not only American but the only way to overcome the hate and violence of others. As individuals, you can show your support by calling a mosque and expressing your concern for their welfare and safety. Over the next week, several of the mosques will be holding candlelight vigils and bring messages of peace and compassion.
On Thursday, Dec. 10, there will be in an interfaith gathering, solidarity walk and candlelight vigil in Little Tokyo. (#VigilantLove:A Solidarity Community Vigil Against Violence and Islamophobia)
4:45 p.m. — Japanese American Cultural and Community Center Plaza, 244 S. San Pedro St.
5:45 p.m. — Japanese American National Museum (First and Central)
This is being organized by the Japanese American Citizens League, Pacific Southwest District; Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress; Council on American Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles; Muslim Public Affairs Council; Advancing Justice-Los Angeles; and the Tuesday Night Project. For more information, call traci ishigo at (213) 626-4471 or go to NCRR-LA.ORG.