Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mad. At. Ignorance.

When something is really bothering me. I get quiet. Yes, if I am not talking or writing or hopping around like a crackhead.. then something is amiss.

I have been quiet.

Yes, I am busy - but not too busy to stew about something that has happened.

But like all good former journalists.. I wanted to check my facts first. I did. I am pissed off.

My sweet, sweet husband has experienced discrimination in one of the most hateful forms.
Let me begin with - I simply cannot believe it. But yet - here it is.

I waited to find out what he wanted to do about it, before I actually voiced my opinion. Now that I have the facts - I plan to tell the story.

As you know, the "Egyptian" has resided in America for almost one year now. He is a US Permanent Resident. Which means he has all the rights and priviledges you and I have - except he can't vote. He came into this country legally and is paying taxes. He is a good man. WHO HAPPENS TO BE A MUSLIM/ARAB.

For those of you not familiar with your geography - Egypt is in North Africa. The ethnicity is arab - and he speaks arabic. Majority of Egyptians are sunni muslim.

He happens to be one of the smartest men I have ever met. Speaks three languages, overly educated, and full of personality. He has traveled more than the average American and is extrememly patriotic when it comes to anything with the USA.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for immigrants to find good jobs/careers at first. He is struggling for many reasons (1. the economy and 2. waiting for the period between having a learner's permit and driver's licence ends.)

We are fortunate enough for him to find a "job" to kill a little time with. He began working at a local Publix - just to get some experience and wait to get the licence - so he can pursue a job in the city.

However, for the past two months he has endured deragotory remarks and unfair treatment due to his religious beliefs and immigrant status. Get this - BY HIS MANAGERS.

Oh yes my friends. Plus I have cold-hard evidence.

This just makes me sick to my stomach that people are so ignorant and uneducated and feel the need to put someone else down due to their religious beliefs or for the fact that they have an accent. I assure you, his english/arabic/french and university degrees add up to a lot more than the  high school diploma or half-a$$ attempt at the english language one of his manager's has. 

I bet she could not even find Egypt on a map.

I have shared this story with a few people. All have replied - "Well.. this IS Alabama." I did not respond. The people saying this are from Alabama.. and I will give them that right to share their opinion. I am not going to blame an entire state on what one ignorant red neck might have said. I just can't stereotype. Not in this case.

There is sooooooooooooooooooo much I want to say. But I think it is best I not step on my little soapbox yet. This is bigger than just a blog post.

I feel like my sentences are not complete. I am bursting at the seams.

The details... oh my..

I am contacting the ACLU. Just for some tips on how to deal with this. (PS - that is the American Civil Liberties Union.) There is a also a Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice that deals with Immigrants Rights, etc.

I guess the company did not realize the "immigrant" they hired happens to be married to a woman who is a bit of a "human rights" fanatic. Ahh.. the irony.

I want to share a little snippet from USA Today in the rise of discrimination against muslims in America. (It was written by Marilyn Elias):

Motaz Elshafi, 28, a software engineer, casually opened an internal e-mail at work last month. The message began, "Dear Terrorist."
The note from a co-worker was sent to Muslims working at Cisco Systems in Research Triangle Park, N.C., a few days after train bombings in India that killed 207. The e-mail warned that such violent acts wouldn't intimidate people, but only make them stronger.
"I was furious," says Elshafi, who is New Jersey-born and bred. "What did I have to do with this violence?"
Reports of such harassment and discrimination against Muslims are rising, advocacy groups say. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,007 Americans shows strong anti-Muslim feeling. And the hard feelings are damaging the mental health of U.S. Muslims, suggest new studies to be released at the American Psychological Association meeting starting Thursday in New Orleans.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll said they felt at least some prejudice against Muslims. The same percentage favored requiring Muslims, including U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID "as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States." About one-third said U.S. Muslims were sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and 22% said they wouldn't want Muslims as neighbors.

Verbal harassment and discrimination correlate with worse mental health in studies of Muslims and Arab-Americans since 9/11, says psychologist Mona Amer of Yale University School of Medicine.

In her new study of 611 adults, thought to be the largest ever done on Arab-Americans, they had much worse mental health than Americans overall. About half had symptoms of clinical depression, compared with 20% in an average U.S. group, Amer says.

Muslims, who made up 70% of the study's participants, had poorer mental health than Christians. Those less likely to be depressed or anxious were people who kept their ethnic or religious ties but also had relationships with other people in the community. And more Christians than Muslims lived this "integrated" lifestyle, Amer says.

Though Muslims said they wanted more contact with Americans of other religions, it may be easier for Arab Christians to integrate, Amer speculates.

"They share the mainstream religion. Muslims may have different kinds of names or dress differently and, especially since 9/11, they're ostracized more."

Bias leads to depression .
Virtually no mental health research was done on U.S. Muslims before 9/11, so her findings can't be compared with earlier studies. A new publication, the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, began publication in May, signaling concern about the growing problems and lack of research.

Many therapists are counseling more Arab-Americans and Muslims since 9/11, Amer says. Also, in surveys of Muslim spiritual leaders to be reported at the psychological association meeting, the imams report a surge in worshipers seeking help for anxiety and stress related to possible discrimination.
Reports of such abuses skyrocketed in the first six months after9/11, fell in 2002 and have climbed again since the Iraq war began in 2003, according to data kept by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an education and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

The number of assault and other discriminatory complaints filed with the group jumped from 1,019 in 2003 to 1,972 in 2005, says Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director.

Nobody knows what proportion of U.S. Muslims encounter discrimination; even Muslims disagree.

"I don't think there's a Muslim out there who hasn't felt some kind of fallout from 9/11," says Jafar Siddiqui, 55, a real estate agent in Lynnwood, Wash. "I myself have been invited to 'go home' at least once a month." Siddiqui has been a U.S. citizen for 20 years.

Despite an increase in harassment since 9/11, "many, many have not felt any discrimination," says Farid Senzai, research director of the Detroit-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a non-profit started four years ago to do research on Muslims.
Harassment charges claiming unreasonable arrest and detention have garnered the most publicity. But discriminatory acts in everyday life — in shops, schools and at work — are reported about as frequently to the American-Islamic relations council.
Elshafi, who got the nasty e-mail at work, still wonders at the boldness of a person who would send such a note. The sender was asked to apologize to several employees who filed complaints with Cisco's human resources department, says Elshafi, who didn't file a complaint.

"We wouldn't confirm a specific internal incident on the record," says Cisco's Robyn Jenkins Blum, who adds, "It is Cisco's policy not to tolerate artificial divisions or harassment of any individual."
Elshafi, a worshiper at the local mosque, says he has received a lot of support from non-Muslim friends at work. "After 9/11, people would say, 'Don't worry, 'Taz, we've got your back.' " He says Muslims are not doing enough to educate people about their religious practices. "We need to talk about our beliefs, know our neighbors."

People such as Elshafi are least vulnerable to becoming depressed due to bigotry, says John Dovidio, a University of Connecticut psychologist and expert on prejudice. "He gets strength from his group identity and support from the outside."
Many are not nearly as fortunate. Children of recent immigrants, women who wear the traditional head scarves or long robes and Iraqi-Americans often aren't faring as well, according to reports at the psychological association meeting.

In Seattle, Hate Free Zone Washington, an education and advocacy group, was launched five years ago to oppose backlash against local Muslims, Sikhs (sometimes mistaken for Muslims) and Arab-Americans. "We've seen an increase in bias-based harassment since 9/11," says Amelia Derr, the group's education director.

Derr says she has seen some Muslim children so traumatized by violent bigotry that she wonders whether they'll ever recover. Last October, a Seattle high school junior who had faced verbal harassment was assaulted in gym class. He suffered a hemorrhage behind his eye and a collapsed lung, Derr says. "The good thing is that the student who did it was convicted of a hate crime."

But the beaten boy won't go back to school, she says. "He's terrified. You can see how damaged he has been. He won't look you in the eye; he just shrinks back. He won't talk." The family came from Afghanistan four years ago, she says.
Even some who were born and raised in the USA feel their religious freedom has limits. Jafumba Asad, 32, of Tulsa stopped wearing the traditional dark robe after 9/11. "It's bad enough just wearing a head scarf. I get nasty stares every day. Wearing full cover makes it harder to get a job. It scares people," says Asad, a community college teacher and graduate student.

Muslim women who wear head scarves are more likely than those who don't to say they face discrimination and a hostile environment, according to a study to be presented at the psychological association's meeting by Alyssa Rippy of the University of Tulsa. The scarves make Muslim women stand out and could change behavior toward them, she suggests.

A few years ago, in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Asad says two men approached her and aggressively shouted "Y'all ought to be (expletive) locked up!" Pregnant at the time, she quickly backed away and then realized there were parked cars behind her. "I felt trapped and very vulnerable. I'm pregnant. I didn't know if they were going to get violent." Luckily, she says, they just walked away.
The mother of three girls says she developed ulcers a few months after 9/11. "I feel stressed a lot."

In Rippy's study, Muslim men were just as likely as women to report discrimination but more likely to become mistrustful and wary because of it. That can encourage sticking with your own group, "which intensifies feelings of paranoia," she says.

Men may back away more than women because they feel discrimination could have more serious consequences for them, for example being pegged as a terrorist or jailed, Rippy says.

The USA TODAY/Gallup Poll suggests Americans have greater fear of Muslim men than women: 31% said they'd feel more nervous flying if a Muslim man was on the plane; 18% said they'd be more nervous with a Muslim woman. The poll, conducted July 28-30, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Iraq war has made its mark on U.S. Muslims as well, psychologist Ibrahim Kira will say at the meeting. In his study of Iraqi-Americans, the more time people spent listening to the radio and watching TV news about the war, the more likely they were to have post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of them had relatives still in Iraq, and stress-disorder rates were high: 14% compared with 4% for the U.S. population, Kira says.

Tuning in to war news also correlated with more stress-related health problems, such as high blood pressure, headaches and stomach trouble, Kira says.
Although the war creates special problems for Iraqi-Americans, they also share a key challenge with other Muslims: lack of trust from people living here. Many Americans clearly don't trust those of the Muslim faith. In fact, 54% said they couldn't vote for a Muslim for president in a June Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll. That compares with 21% who turned thumbs-down on an evangelical Christian and 15% who wouldn't cast their ballot for a Jew.
Amer believes the world has changed for U.S. Muslims since Sept. 11 but says: "I don't think Americans understand what's happened. Muslims have the same anxieties and anguish about terrorism as everyone else in the U.S. At the same time, they're being blamed for it. They're carrying a double burden."

That's a great example of what happens. Imagine living in a state like Alabama?? Luckily - we are in Birmingham, a much more metropolitan area that has two BIG mosques and a large arab community...

But it hurts to watch someone you love have to deal with this.

It's crap. It makes me mad. There are other immigrants (Russian, French, and Hispanic) that work with my husband. They are all harassed, but are afraid to speak up - not understanding their rights. I am proud of my husband for speaking up. He is lucky - he has me.

Actually, I am lucky - I have him. :-)

More to come I am sure... I am hesitating before I share more.. but know.. there will be more.


Anonymous said...

Stuff like this makes my blood boil.

Kristine said...

I am sooo sorry..I'm just speech-less.
My best wishes to you and your husband.
Kris Hudson

kat said...

During the Obama election campaign, some felt that the "anti-Islam" rhetoric was bringing to the forefront, a deep-seated prejudice and bigotry that had previously "gone underground". And that the fact that Obama is Black had a lot to do with it.

Studies in both the U.S. and Europe have also shown a disturbing link between Islamophobia and Anti-semitism --- a person who is highly prejudiced against Islam/Muslims is also likely to be equally prejudiced against Jews/Judaism.
This suggests a deep-seated problem within "Western" society/culture. One that should be seriously addressed.

Hopefully aknowledging and adressing this problem will create a better society for all and reinforce the "Western" values of equality and democracy.

Miel Abeille said...

This is unbelievable! I'm so sorry you & your husband have to experience this.

Megan said...

I really like you. That is all.

Nicole said...

Well.. thank you!


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