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War Hysteria, Then and Now

By Naomi Nakamura

San Jose, CA – On June 2, members of the San Jose Japanese American community met at the Yu-Ai-Kai (Japanese American Seniors' Center). They were there to learn more about the attacks on Arab Americans, Muslims and civil liberties following Sept. 11. Susan Hayase moderated the program on behalf of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee. In her introduction, Hayase said, “It is happening again,” and pointed the connection between the mass arrests of Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor and the detention of Arab and Muslim Americans today.

Fadi Saba, a member of the Coalition for Civil Liberties, said that the attacks on Arabs and Muslims today echo the Palmer Raids of the 1920's, where the U.S. government rounded up and deported thousands of immigrants suspected of being communists. Mark Schlosberg, of the American Civil Liberties Union, warned the audience about the USA Patriot Act, which expands police powers, labels civil disobedience as terrorism, and targets immigrants. Maha El Genaidi, of the Islamic Network Group, raised the question, “Is Islam taking the place of communism in a new cold war?” She also called on individuals to educate themselves and for the community to speak out as a group.

After the panel presentation, members of the audience shared web sites on civil liberties, the concentration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, and anti-war information. There was a discussion about the Arab Americans who had been fired by Cadence Designs and Macy's. Towards the end of the discussion, Masao Suzuki, a member of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee, said there was a need to “build a base in the Japanese American community, build ties with Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Americans, and criticize U.S. foreign policy.”

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