Sunday, January 30, 2011

We Stand with Egyptians, but Egyptian-Americans? Not so much.

Imagine, if you will, that an American, motivated by hatred of, let's say, Roman Catholics, drove to New York City and parked a car full of explosives outside St. Patrick's Cathedral during a funeral, only to be caught by the FBI on a tip from a bar employee who had heard the man ranting about Catholics earlier. Surely this would be a big story. It wouldn't take more than a day for it to hit the news, and we'd be hearing major coverage.

Now let's substitute a few facts. Instead of Catholics, let's insert Muslims. Instead of New York, let's move to Dearborn, Michigan -- the Detroit suburb with the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the United States. Now the plot can't be against St. Patrick's, of course, so we'll move it to the Islamic Center of America -- the largest mosque in the Detroit metropolitan area. The rest of the facts are the same. What kind of press coverage do you expect?

I hope your expectations aren't very high, because this actually happened on Monday. It didn't hit the media even locally until this morning, six days after the arrest and four days after the man was arraigned. It took the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) releasing a press statement to get anyone's attention. It's not the top story in Michigan news even now that it has gotten some coverage.

I find this particularly poignant given that Americans have been watching round-the-clock coverage of the unrest in Egypt this week. My Facebook page has lit up with postings asking me to sign various petitions asking our government to stand with the people of Egypt. I'd like to suggest that we might like to stand with Americans of Egyptian extraction as well. The situations are not the same, certainly. But I can imagine nothing more dehumanizing than being the target of a mass murder plot, foiled at the last moment, and it not even registering as a blip on anyone's radar screen.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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