Japanese-American Internment Relevant to American Muslims Today
SEATTLE - Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of an executive order that led to the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. To mark the anniversary, the Seattle Library will hold an event highlighting the parallels between their situation and that of today's American Muslims.
Tom Ikeda's parents and grandparents were interned during the war. Now executive director of Densho, a group focused on preserving the history of Japanese-American internment, Ikeda said one modern-day similarity is some people's tendency to view American Muslims as a group rather than as individuals.
"Once you start seeing people based on their group association and you generate fear towards that group," he said, "if you have another catastrophic event - maybe a terrorist act in the United States - something like that will trigger even more fear, and then it will escalate more and more."
The event, called "Never Again," begins at 2 p.m. Sunday at Seattle Center, and will be livestreamed on Densho's website. U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., also will be part of the event.
Ikeda's family history demonstrates the grim irony for Japanese-Americans during World War II. While his family was interned, his uncle volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army and was killed in action.
"When I look through my mom's photo album," he said, "in particular, there's this photograph of her parents, or my grandparents, who are accepting the American flag in this dusty field at the Minidoka, Idaho, concentration camp."
Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is to speak on Sunday as well. He cited an increase in hate crimes against American Muslims over the past year, but said many people also have shown support for American Muslim communities.
"There's been outpouring nationwide of pastors and rabbis, and just everyday neighbors, coming to their local mosques with signs, with balloons and flowers," he said. "And I think our job is to thank them, and then ask them to convey this same message to the wider public, to those who are not quite there yet."