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Present-day anti-Muslim bias linked to WWII internment

February 26, 2016

Linking World War II internment with present-day discrimination against Muslims, guest speakers said that history is repeating itself as De Anza College students and community members gathered to commemorate Japanese internment.

The California History Center and Muslim Students Association hosted the Day of Remembrance seminar Thursday, Feb. 18 in the Campus Center.

The Day of Remembrance, an unofficial holiday on Feb. 19, commemorates the memory of Japanese internment which began Feb. 19, 1942.

Ignorance can only be beat by educating someone’s mind, by showing them this is who I am. I’m not a violent person. I come in peace.

— Dikshya Dhungana, 19,
microbiology and journalism major

The U.S. government violated the rights of more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese heritage by relocating them to concentration camps, according to documentaries presented at the event.

The documentaries included Japanese Americans recalling the traumatic experience of being forced from their homes into buildings that once housed livestock.

Guest speaker Shirin Sinnar, assistant professor at Stanford Law School, said that it is important to remember internment because the same mistakes are being repeated.
“We’ve heard explicit calls to confine Syrian refugees or Muslims in the United States,” Sinnar said.

She explained that she has both witnessed and been a victim of anti-Muslim sentiment, the prevalence of which has recently increased significantly after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

“While we haven’t yet seen mass internment, we have certainly seen policies in recent years that reflect such group-based presumptions of disloyalty,” Sinnar said.

Guest speaker Bruce Hamack, civil rights attorney, criticized the the Obama administration for following in the footsteps of its predecessors.

The way FBI informants tend to primarily focus on Muslims implies that government counter-violence programs are directed towards Muslims, Hamack said.

“An American Muslim has a right under the United States constitution to refuse to meet with FBI agents,” Hamack said.

Many times, however, they do not exercise that right out of fear that it will make them look suspicious, he said.

History shows that prejudice doesn’t arise overnight, Sinnar said.

“The seeds of the internment were cultivated in decades of racism,” she said.

The speakers and attendees agreed that the best way to keep prejudice and hate speech from spreading is through education and discussion.

Local “Meet a Muslim” events are a a great way to encourage open dialogue, Hamack said. These events are informal coffee shop chats where people who have never met a Muslim or have questions about their political beliefs and Islamic faith, can ask questions to clear up misconceptions.

“De Anza has also done something to combat hate speech,” said MSA president Ali Haider, 17, economics major. “We had tent city a couple of weeks ago that set to build relationships and work on issues. There have also been seminars on Islamophobia and Black Lives Matter.

Sinnar remains positive about the future because so many civil rights organizations, political leaders and other oppressed minority groups have expressed their disapproval of the recent calls for the exclusion of Muslims.

“I remain hopeful because in one respect our political environment is very different than it was during the internment,” Sinnar said. “When the Japanese Americans were incarcerated, they were largely alone. Thankfully, today, Muslim Americans are not alone.”

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