Life changed fast for Saif Ataya after the jetliners hijacked by terrorists slammed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers four months ago today.
First came the name-calling and death threats. Then the hateful graffiti and vandalism at his small San Francisco store. The breaking point, however, was when his 5-year-old daughter was called a terrorist on her
schoolyard. "I was devastated," said Ataya, an Arab American who runs a corner grocery store in the city's quiet Eureka Valley neighborhood.
Ataya's post-Sept. 11 experience is part of a disturbing trend.
According to figures recited yesterday during a hearing at San Francisco City Hall, the number of hate crimes and cases of discrimination and harassment against Arab Americans and Muslims has soared nationwide since
Justice Department officials said today that a new effort to find and deport people who have fled to avoid previous deportation orders would begin with tracking several thousand men from Muslim and Middle Eastern
countries that have Al Qaeda presences.
The officials said although the men from Muslim and Middle Eastern countries constituted a small fraction of those who have ignored deportation orders, they would be the initial focus of efforts to locate evaders and expel them…
…Some civil liberties and Arab American advocacy groups questioned the fairness of that policy. A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, Ibrahim Hooper, said the policy was greatly dismaying.
"If you add in this new policy," Mr. Hooper said in an interview, "with several others announced by this administration like their plans to question 5,000 Muslim men who are here legally, the effect is to create a
perception in the Muslim and Arab American community that there is a two-tier legal system, one for the majority and another for the people who are Muslim or Arab American.
"Anybody who breaks the law and ignores a deportation order deserves to be arrested. But to single people out solely on their religion and ethnicity goes against longstanding values of equal protection of the law."
Before Sept. 11, the merest hint of using profiles to screen for potential wrongdoers was widely regarded as a violation of some elementary American value. But the debate has become more complex…