Feb. 20-21: National Day of Solidarity with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Immigrants

"Now Is the Time To Resist"

Revolutionary Worker #1189, March 2, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org

On February 20 and 21, people gathered around the country in the second National Day of Solidarity with Arab, Muslim, and South Asian Immigrants. From New York to Detroit to Houston to San Francisco, rallies at INS offices and other events protested the U.S. government's detention and special registration of immigrants. Speakers from the Blue Triangle Network, Amnesty International, ACLU, Arab and South Asian organizations, Not In Our Name, and other groups united to stand with the immigrants who are under attack.

On January 20, a demonstration at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus featured speeches by Dr. Hatem Bazian, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley; Richard Aoki, founding faculty member of the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Dept. and a concentration camp prisoner during the WW2 internment of Japanese Americans; and Travis Morales, member of La Resistencia, participant in the Blue Triangle Network, and supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

The following are excerpts from the speech by Travis Morales.

What do you call a country where people are arrested for the color of their skin, where they were born, the language they speak, the religion they practice, or their political beliefs, and disappear after they are taken away?

What do you call a country where people are held indefinitely without charges?

What do you call a country where people are jailed in secret and not allowed to see family or attorneys?

What do you call a country where secret military courts can try and sentence civilians to death--where one government official, the president, decides who will be tried in these military courts?

What do you call a country where court hearings and trials are held in secret?

What do you call a country where people are tried and sentenced based on secret evidence that they and their attorney are never allowed to see?

What do you call a country where gag orders bar defense attorneys from even telling anyone the names of their clients, much less talking about them in the news media?

Some might call it Nazi Germany. Some might call it Chile under General Pinochet. Some might call it occupied Palestine. The reality is that it is the United States in 2003.

Paraphrasing the famous words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller, who survived the Nazi concentration camps, this time, they are coming for the Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants, all in the name of national security and fighting terrorism. As we speak, the government is registering and detaining Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants! Detention is not a future possibility but a present reality. Now is the time to sound the alarm and act. Now is the time to resist.

Federal authorities detained over 1,200, maybe a thousand more, in the immediate wake of September 11. Last December the government detained up to 1,000 Middle Eastern immigrants when they complied with a government order to register with the INS. The 3,000 demonstrators who protested these latest detentions in Los Angeles spoke the bitter truth with their signs that said, "What's next? Concentration camps?"

For those who might tell you that we are exaggerating, ask the Kesbeh family. They are a nine-member Palestinian family in Houston. They were driven out of Palestine in 1948. They were driven out of the West Bank in 1967. They were expelled from Saudi Arabia after the Persian Gulf War in 1991. They came to the United States and began the long process of gaining permanent residency. In March of last year, some members of Mrs. Kesbeh's family died in a car wreck in Jordan. Family members and friends came over to grieve with them and express their sympathy. A neighbor called the authorities, saying they had better come check this out because all these Arabs were gathering. The INS arrested Mr. Kesbeh and his 18-year-old son and began deportation proceedings against the family. After a public outcry, numerous faxes to the INS, and press conferences by the Kesbeh family along with La Resistencia and others, the INS temporarily halted the deportation proceedings the night before and released Mr. Kesbeh and his son after six months in detention....

The government is terrorizing the Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities. If they go to register they are detained. If they don't register, they are detained. People tell us they are afraid to go to their mosques because of government interrogations, surveillance and undercover infiltration. People tell us they are forced to live in constant fear that they will be detained, jailed in secret and indefinitely, prohibited from seeing their families or attorneys, not even knowing why they are being held. We must refuse to allow our sisters and brothers to be terrorized. We must stand with those who publicly said with their signs on the January 10 registration date, "I will not register."

The government is compiling lists just like they did before the roundup of 110,000 Japanese Americans in World War II, just like the Nazis did before the roundup of the Jews. The FBI and other government agencies are right now tracking thousands of Iraqi citizens and Iraqi Americans and compiling information on them in the largest such operation in history. The government is planning new waves of roundups and detentions as they prepare for war.

All of this is why I am part of the Blue Triangle Network, which brings together Muslims, Jews, civil libertarians, revolutionary communists, and yes some Republicans, Arabs, Chicanos, immigrant rights activists and many others--from all our different perspectives, all determined to stop this wave of repression.

We call on you to actively participate in the Blue Triangle Network to stop this repression against Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants. Wear a blue triangle with the name of one of those who have disappeared at the hands of the U.S. government to publicly declare your solidarity with them. Distribute blue triangles at work, at school and in your places of worship. Distribute copies of the 12-page Blue Triangle Network fact sheet which details these repressive measures. Find the ways to stop this repression.

As a revolutionary communist I want to say that in the days and weeks ahead we must step up our resistance. As this government rushes headlong into war against Iraq, it is capable of anything. Already, they have gone far beyond anything that we have seen in our lifetime.

Members of the government have proposed the mass roundup of Arabs and Muslims. Attorney General John Ashcroft has called for detention centers where U.S. citizens can be held indefinitely without charges and without appeal to the courts. A parallel legal system is being established where secret courts, secret searches, and secret evidence are used to declare a citizen or non-citizen a terrorist or "enemy combatant" and order their indefinite detention where all the long established constitutional protections do not apply. In Patriot Act II John Ashcroft and company are proposing that the government has the power to strip citizenship from anyone accused of belonging to or supporting a group designated by the government as a "terrorist organization" and deport them to who knows where or jail them forever. And just who is a terrorist or terrorist organization? Anyone the government says....

We must develop determined mass resistance if we are going to stop the repression against immigrants and the headlong rush toward a police state.

If the people are not able to mobilize many more to resist and stop the repression against Muslim, Arab, and South Asian immigrants and prevent the government from laying the foundation for horrendous repression against all immigrants and the rest of us, there will be no movement of dissent and opposition. That is the hard reality. I urge everyone in the movement, as you carry out your present activities, to find the ways to link whatever struggles in which you are involved with the movement to stop the repression against Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants. Most especially, make stopping this repression part of every anti-war activity. Together, we must act. If we do not defend those who first come under attack, then we will be much weaker down the road as the government moves forward to attack and repress other communities. On the other hand, if we do link all these struggles together, we will make the movement to stop the U.S. war on the world, the repression and all attacks against all immigrants much more powerful.

Think of what it would mean if millions across the country were wearing the blue triangle in solidarity with the disappeared. Think of what it would mean if churches, mosques and synagogues opened their doors as sanctuary for the persecuted. Think of what it would mean if artists, poets and musicians created an atmosphere of resistance against this repression. Think of what it would mean if college students seized the files of immigrant students from the administration so they could not be turned over to the government. Think of what it would mean if people found the ways to confront these detention centers and free the detainees.

As a revolutionary communist, I want to close with the words of Izhak Zuckerman, one of the few surviving leaders of the 1943 desperate and heroic Warsaw Ghetto armed uprising of the Jews against the Nazis:

"In 1939 we did not understand--we refused to believe--both out of ignorance and a desire not to see... If only we had realized; if only we had understood; if only we had been able to turn the historical tide back to the year 1939 we should have shouted 'Revolt at once!' For then we were at the height of our strength. Then we were possessed of vigor and self-respect."

Remember the roundup of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Remember the roundup of the Japanese Americans in the United States. What would you have done then? Think of the roundup of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians in the United States in 2003. What will you do now?

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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