September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Congressional Record House - Condemning Bigotry and Violence Against Arab-Americans, American Muslims, and Americans from South Asia; September 14, 2001


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Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee on the Judiciary be discharged from further consideration of the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res 227) condemning bigotry and violence against Arab-Americans, American Muslims, and Americans from South Asia in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York City, New York, and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.

The Clerk read the title of the concurrent resolution.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Pennsylvania?

Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Speaker, reserving the right to object, first of all, I would like to thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania and the leadership of this House for bringing this resolution up. Particularly, I would like to thank the Speaker; the majority leader, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Armey); the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Davis), who has been so active; the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier); and others. We appreciate the opportunity to have this resolution come before us this evening.

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to object to this, but I think there are Members who would like to speak on this important resolution.

I will yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas) and then to the distinguished majority leader.

Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, the gentleman is correct, this is a resolution which has been approved by everyone in sight and is very apropos at this moment in our Nation's history, considering the events of this past week.

The only comment I want to make before the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Armey) will be elucidating on the subject is that we do not want to repeat as a Nation the insidious events that took place after Pearl Harbor with respect to the treatment of Japanese-American citizens, who had to suffer the indignities which are so well chronicled and which were so noted by this Congress in recent years.

So when we talk about treating Arab-Americans in the light of what happened this past week in similar ways, this resolution goes to the heart of that series of events.

Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Speaker, continuing my reservation, I yield to the distinguished majority leader, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Armey).

Mr. ARMEY. Mr. Speaker, let me begin by thanking the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Bonior) for drafting this legislation and thank the gentleman even more for calling it to my attention and inviting me to be part of this discussion.

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter. This goes to the heart of what we have been talking about for the last few days.

This Nation was attacked by criminal terrorists, barbarians. For what reasons, we do not know. Of course, we have asked ourselves why, and we have been offered a lot of reasons.

We are hurt, we are angry, we are disappointed. We intend to set this thing right. But we do not set it right, Mr. Speaker, if we paint the whole world with one brush.

These were people with hatred in their hearts. They are not all the people of a race, a religion or a creed. Indeed, most of the people in this country that are Arab-Americans, most of the people in this world who are Arabs, most of the American Muslims, most of the people in the world who are Muslims, most of the people in the world who are South Asians, are as shocked and horrified as we are.

These were criminals. These were thugs. I do not know their agenda, but it is wrong for us to spread the blame for that kind of behavior to any person other than those who are responsible. As a good decent Nation, we will hold those who are accountable, who are responsible for transgressing against the rules of human dignity accountable; and that same good decent Nation that holds them accountable with all the rigor of their law and force and might should use all the rigor of their law and force and might to speak up for and protect the innocent.

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That is what America is about.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that this body pass this resolution, and I would say to my Nation that I love so much, vindicate our heroes, those that have come before us and those that we now fear we will have to put on the fields of danger, by having the ability to understand that all the world's people, each and every separate person in this world, is God's child that deserves our respect and our decent care and love and affection, only when they demonstrate that they do not hold any animus.

Finally, two thoughts from our scripture. We are admonished no matter how bad things are, no matter how angry we are, do not sin in your anger, Mr. and Mrs. America. Do not diminish yourself. Secondly, even for those who are criminal perpetrators, we are told to love the sinner, but hate the sin.

Let us try to rise to an occasion, an occasion where we can demonstrate in our common ordinary business where we treat one another on the street, in their homes, in their places of religious observation, wherever we find them, irrespective of creed or national origin, that we treat everybody the same, with equal respect and decent treatment. Then, we as a Nation of people might be worthy of all that has been sacrificed by our national heroes.

Again, I thank the gentleman for bringing this to my attention. I know so many good Americans who happen to be Arab Americans, South Asian Americans, American Muslim communities, and they are hurt and they are injured and they are angry, and they too cry out with their heart, why this pain and why this harm should be brought to this great Nation. Let us let it end with us setting the better example.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman.

Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader for his eloquent statement.

Under my reservation, I yield to the distinguished gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis), who has played a very important role in making this happen.

Mr. TOM DAVIS of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the gentleman from Michigan for his leadership on this issue.

Just in the last few days, in my district in Northern Virginia, anti-Arabic graffiti was written at a local high school. We have had an Islamic bookstore that has been vandalized.

The vast majority of American Muslims and Arabs are as appalled at these acts of terrorism as the rest of us. Many of these Muslim and Arab Americans and Sikhs came to escape this type of terrorism in their own countries, and it has come here now. But they have come here, as most of our forbears, for the freedom and the opportunity offered in America. We cannot afford to let the terrorists divide

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our country between Muslim and Arab and Jews and Christians. We do not want to repeat the mistakes of World War II where we singled out Japanese Americans for discrimination. We need to show that Americans stand together: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others in support of our President and against any type of discrimination. Against any group, discrimination cannot and should not be tolerated.

This resolution affirms our role as leaders in recognizing that no group should be singled out for discrimination simply because they share a common heritage or religious background similar to the terrorists.

I ask that we pass this resolution. Again, I commend the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Bonior) for his leadership.

Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Speaker, further reserving the right to object, I yield to the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier).

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding under his reservation.

I want to say that I strongly support this resolution. I want to thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Davis) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Bonior) for the leadership that they have shown on this very important issue.

There are few things that outrage me more than the kind of discrimination that was just outlined by the gentleman from Virginia that has taken place. The graffiti that has come up in the wake of Tuesday's tragedy is just horrible, and we need to do everything that we can to ensure that that does not happen. I believe that this resolution should send a very strong signal about the leadership that the United States is going to take in ensuring that this kind of discrimination does not take place.

Just a little more than 12 hours ago, Mr. Speaker, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, the leader of the North American Islamic Society, gave the opening prayer at the very moving service that most of the Members of this body attended. I believe that his presence at that service that we attended was a very strong signal from President Bush and other leaders in this country that we are not going to tolerate that kind of discrimination which has been described already here and which, frankly, is of concern to me and to others.

Attempts to bring about generalization is something that is very tempting for a lot of people, and I will simply say that we need to caution the American people against that. That is why I chose to stay here when the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Davis) first mentioned to me the prospect of this resolution. I wanted to voice my very strong support for it.

Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman. Before I yield to the gentleman from California (Mr. Rahall), my good friend who is of Lebanese descent, I want to just say a few words, if the gentleman would permit me.

Like all Americans, Arab Americans, Muslims in America, Sikhs, they have strongly condemned these heinous and outrageous acts that have been perpetrated against America and its people. And like their fellow citizens of all faiths, they have joined in efforts to give blood; they have been parts of vigils around this country; they have conducted their own religious services. They were the firemen and the police that were involved in trying to rescue people in New York City. They are part of what we all are grieving and suffering from so painfully in these last 3 days, 4 days.

So I would say tonight that in the wake of this attack, it is really most unfortunate and sad and outrageous that the Arab American community and the Muslim American community and the South Asian community, the Sikhs particularly, have been targeted with this bigotry that the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Davis) alluded to, and violence.

Near Chicago, bigots tossed a fire bomb at an Arab American community center. In old town Alexandria, vandals attacked an Islamic bookstore, as the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Davis) said, and two Virginia mosques received threatening phone calls. In New York, a man tried to run over a Pakistani woman in the parking lot of a shopping mall, accusing her of destroying my country, and the list goes on and on. Many of the children in the schools are fearful because of their religion or because of where their ancestors or families may have come from. Women, Muslim women are fearful about wearing their head coverings in public, as well are Sikhs who have expressed that same concern to me today. It is a serious problem.

I think not only did Muzammil Siddiqi speak today at the service, but Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington, spoke as well.

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He reminded us. He said this. He reminded all Americans in prayer that: ``We must seek the guilty and not strike out against the innocent, or we become like them who are without moral guidance or direction.'' So I hope and pray in the days ahead that people will remember that.

When I was at the White House on Wednesday, the day after the tragedies, I had occasion to speak with the President and the Cabinet and the other leaders of the Congress. We talked about this issue. We raised this issue. There was agreement throughout the room that we would keep this issue in mind and in the forefront of our discussions as we proceed in the weeks and months ahead.

So I want to commend the President, because he soon thereafter condemned this bigotry on national television, and so did the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and so did Mayor Giuliani, with quite a bit of force in New York City.

Today, we in the Congress lend our voices to this chorus for American tolerance, Mr. Speaker, and diversity, and for the rights of every American of every heritage and faith to live and worship with safety and confidence and pride.

It is very heartening to see Members on both sides of the aisle stand up in support of what this resolution says.

Mr. Speaker, I yield to my friend, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Rahall), who has always been, for the 25 years he has been in the House, a leader on these issues.

Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend from Michigan for yielding; and I to want to commend him for bringing this to the floor this evening, as well as the gentleman from Pennsylvania, and to thank the gentleman from Michigan for his leadership on other relevant issues in this arena as well, and most particularly, his sponsorship and fight for the secret evidence legislation.

Mr. Speaker, we are all justifiably angered about the events of 9/11 last week. We, often, in our rage, in our fit of anger, say and do things that, upon reflection, we perhaps regret. But the instances that have been referred to by previous speakers, including the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Bonior), go beyond those just temporary slips of judgment or temporary slips of the tongue. They go to what is basic about our American society, and it is really an attack upon what is basic about our military society.

Let us not forget that Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, South Asian Americans, are Americans first. They chose to come to this country in order to seek a better way of life for themselves and their families. They pay taxes. They vote. They donate to various charitable causes within their communities. They have become well respected, and they have contributed in so many walks of life, whether it be the medical profession, the legal profession. Whether it be doctors, lawyers, whether it be teachers, whether it be laborers in our factories, they have contributed so much to our American way of life.

Let us not forget as well that there were members of these communities that were in those Twin Towers that lost their lives, as well. Let us not forget that fact.

So I guess the best way to describe these attacks against Arab Americans or Muslim Americans or South Asians is, as my hometown newspaper described it today, to paraphrase my hometown paper in Beckley, West Virginia, these are yahoos that are making these attacks, yahoos who happen to pose as great a threat to our American society, to our freedoms, and to our way of life as those perpetrators of those heinous crimes against our country last Tuesday.

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They are ignorant, those who espouse these attacks. They are not the majority of Americans. No, they are a small group; and fortunately, these attacks are not as prominent today as they were in past occasions, like the Gulf War or the Oklahoma City bombing. That is because more and more recognition is coming to the communities represented by Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, South Asians, because of their contributions to our American way of life.

As the gentleman from Michigan has mentioned, they have all, to the group, condemned, highly condemned, the acts of last Tuesday. They have organized themselves into blood donation drives, they are contributing their money, they are praying as hard as each of us for the victims of these crimes against our country, and for the hopes of their families and their futures.

So I commend the gentleman from Michigan and the gentleman from Pennsylvania for bringing this resolution to the floor and urge its unanimous passage.

Mr. BONIOR. I thank my colleague.

Continuing to reserve, Mr. Speaker, I yield to the distinguished gentlewoman from Illinois (Ms. Schakowsky), who has not only spoken out against this kind of bigotry, but has actually organized in her own district.

Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman yielding to me, and the efforts and leadership of my colleague, the gentleman from Michigan, to end this kind of bigotry and discrimination.

In the face of this unspeakable assault on the American people, we have so many reasons to be proud this week. We look at the firefighters, the police, the other emergency workers who went into harm's way, and so we are celebrating as an American family an opportunity to embrace each other, even as we grieve, and congratulate those who have worked so hard to end the suffering.

At the same time there has been this one sour note, and that is, that there are those who have used this occasion to commit acts of bigotry and even violence against people who want to join with us as Americans, as residents of this country, as people offended by this act of terrorism and find themselves being the victim. It is hard for me to even imagine people who are feeling so hurt by what happened and then themselves go out in the street and find themselves to be harassed as somehow to blame for these acts of violence when they are completely innocent.

I have a district that is so diverse, all kinds of people, every race and religion and ethnic origin; and we are going to take a walk down Divine Avenue this Sunday, a street in my district that has shops, a booming commercial district of Muslims and Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Orthodox Jews, Jewish people. And we are going to walk from one end of the street to the other, just take a walk together, hand in hand, arm in arm to express our solidarity.

That is the kind of thing that we need to be doing in this hour of need in this country to help heal each other and not turn against each other, and that is the essence of this resolution that I hope everyone will support.

Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Speaker, further reserving the right to object, I think it is a beautiful idea, and I hope it is emulated around the country. I yield to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman very much for his leadership on this issue. He has been a continuing advocate for these issues, and as well, I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims for bringing this particular resolution to the floor of the House. And I would certainly want to offer to the American people the fact that we are better than this.

Clearly, it is important during this time of great emotion, constantly seeing our brethren searching for those who may still live or those who do not live. It is stressful as we watch the continuous rescue efforts in New York, some still continuing at the Pentagon, the review of the heroic act of those who downed the plane in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, you want to lash out. You want to find some easing of your pain. But listening to a woman who was full of pain say we do not want them here is not the way that America shows its pain. America understands what freedom, what democracy, and what our values are all about.

So I think this is particularly important today for the Congress of the United States to use its national platform to be louder than those disjointed chords of confusion and hatred and really speak loudly to our local jurisdictions, our governors, our mayors, our county commissioners, our local law enforcement, our parishes, churches, synagogues and mosques, our community organizations, all of them, our neighbors, our schools. We must speak in one voice that we will not tolerate this kind of singling out of Americans, Arab Americans, South Asian Americans, and American Muslims.

In particular, I think one of the greater tragedies is what is happening to our children, children who have to go to and from school, children who have to mingle on school playgrounds, and it is in school classrooms and on school sports teams. What are we doing to them? Are we setting up a situation where those who believe this is the right thing to do because they heard adults say this? Are they then intimidating others who happen to be Arab American, South Asian Americans and American Muslims? We are dividing our children.

The one thing about a terrorist act is it is to instill an enormous amount of fear in society, and what happens out of fear? You begin to turn on each other. Let us show the perpetrators of these terroristic acts that we do stand against terrorism, and we are fearless. In fact, we are so fearless that we are going to unify with each other and we are going to find unity in being an American, an Arab American, South Asian American and American Muslim.


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