Could rising bigotry and hatred in America lead to creation of internment camps?

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SHAFAQNA - Bigotry in America is reaching dangerous levels. There has always been a fear in our community that the growing xenophobia would lead to World War II-style interment camps for Arab and Muslim Americans.

While the idea seemed far-fetched, a national figure recently suggested putting people who are “likely to be radicalized” in camps until the War on Terror ends, if it  ends.

Following the despicable attack in Chattanooga that claimed the lives of five marines, retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark suggested isolating “disloyal Americans” from the rest of society.

“If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine,” he told MSNBC on Monday. “It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”

In using the words “these people” and “segregate”, which implies a sense of divisiveness and supremacy, the general invoked a dishonorable era of our history when our government allowed fear to trump the Constitution and rounded up Japanese Americans into interment camps during World War II.

Clark later tried and failed to justify his comments.

“#ISIS is the enemy. US Citz who choose #ISIS are spies, enemy combatants or both. Govt should separate them from the rest of us,” he tweeted.

The problem with Clark’s logic is that it can easily lead to ethnic and religious profiling and amplify institutionalized racism against large groups of people. Who is to determine if a U.S. citizen is choosing ISIS?

This rationale is dangerous because stripping suspected ISIS supporters of their Constitutional rights opens the door for abuse and endangers Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as U.S. citizens who oppose American foreign policy.

Federal investigators have not found a direct link between ISIS and the Chattanooga shooter, who struggled with drugs and alcohol. Even the shooter’s family did not know he had supposedly been adopting a violent extremist ideology.

“Homegrown ISIS cells are a threat,” Clark said on twitter after the interview. While we have faced attacks by extremists motivated by the Saudi-inspired Salafist ideology, they were mostly by self-radicalized, unstable individuals.

The myths of ISIS cells around the country is a product of the imagination of Islamophobic right wingers, who make a living out of spreading fear.

Such actions are nothing new. In the mid-20th century, fear mongers insisted that the country was being overrun by Communists.

We have a Constitution, law enforcement agencies and a criminal justice system that are capable of dealing with suspected terrorists.

Clark’s statements on MSNBC go against the progressive views he based his platform on during the 2004 campaign. However, the unconstitutional tactic he proposed on Monday is telling beyond his individual views. The interviewer did not even challenge Clark’s suggestion. Fear has reached a point where openly advocating against the Constitution is tolerated, if not celebrated.

We condemn all forms of terrorism and murder. Arab and Muslim Americans are at risk of being victimized by terrorist attacks like the rest of society. But then they have to deal with a backlash for something they did not commit and face violent hate crimes.

Our hearts go to the victims of the families of our servicemen in Chattanooga. As Americans, we share their pain.

Another terrorist

Mohamad Abdulazeez, who shot the marines last week, was not the only terrorist in Chattanooga. A former Republican candidate for Congress, who according to court documents was planning to firebomb a Muslim community center in upstate New York, was released by a federal judge earlier this month.

Robert Doggart’s case gathered no national attention.

“There is a certain leniency granted to people with terrorist-like charges if they’re non-jihadis,” the South Poverty Law Center’s Ryan Lenz told The Guardian. “In the aftermath of 9/11, the federal government has turned its focus almost exclusively to Islamic terrorism.”

Terrorism is a threat to the fabric of our nation and we must combat bigotry, divisions and preconceived notions about one another to face it.

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