Members of the Japanese American community joined with Muslims and Sikhs in the Cincinnati area to draw parallels between the current climate faced by South Asian Americans with that felt by Japanese Americans during World War II.
The symposium this past weekend entitled From Citizen to Enemy was sponsored by the Cincinnati chapters of the Japanese American Citizen’s League and the Council of American Islamic Relations.
Several of the panelists spoke to the Cincinnati Enquirer prior to the event.
“We all know the danger of history repeating itself. The parallels are staggering. We have to know our history,” said Roula Allouch, a leader in CAIR. “We can overcome. Our values and principles are better than what happened to Japanese Americans, what is happening to Muslim Americans today and the ongoing treatment of African Americans. We are better than that.”
Gordon Yoshikawa talked about his personal experience as well as his family’s experience surrounding evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and experience in the incarceration camp. Yoshikawa was just 7 when he joined his mother and father behind barbed wire near the Oregon border.
“Back then I was too young to know what was going on,” he said of his experience in camps in California and Utah. “People need to know about what other people went through because of general public mistrust. We had people who supported us in the 1940s. We should be people who support the Muslims. It’s important somebody stand up and say something.”
Jaipal Singh talked about Sikhism and the persecution of Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.
“Throughout our lives, we are on a path toward either freedom or fear,” he said. “All of the anti-Muslim rhetoric, the hatred, is rooted in fear of the unknown. Fear of the other leads to anger, anger to hate, and hate to suffering. We cannot let it control us.”
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