Anti-Muslim Violence at an All-Time High inside the United States

Immigrant Stories, Immigrant Lives

Alexander Lynn, Abdullali Amadadeen

Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported that on Sunday, October 16th, 2016, a household in Revere Massachusetts (suburb of Boston) inhabited by six men from Morocco, was taken siege, gassed, suffered severe damage, and each of its inhabitants were arrested.

Ultimately, as the story unfolds, the local police of the town were directed to a home by an anonymous caller. The caller had a Boston accent (in other words, he was a White American). He said he was in a house where gun shots were fired; he fled the house leaving his child inside. This is what this man told police over the phone. The man, his phone, and his child have not since been found or identified. Those who have been identified are six Arab adults, each of whom happen to be Muslim, who were rousted out of their beds at 6am, beaten by local police, the Massachusetts SWAT team and other military personnel, maced in their faces, and forced to breathe in tear gas which was lobbed into their dwelling by the Tactical Patrol Force. The TPF representative (euphemistically?) called the tear gas “chemical irritant.”

As this story shakes out, it became clear that an anti-Arab action was taken by an otherwise American citizen of this town. In the words of John Robbins, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, “Obviously we’re seeing incidents like this all too frequently.” Robbins insists that incidents like this, where innocent families are targeted for official violence merely through false claims made by White Americans against them, are on the rise. Putting it mildly, he went on to say, “We hope that in this case their race and religion didn’t play a factor, but we’re concerned that it did.”

According to the Boston Globe article, the six Revere building inhabitants were eventually released from custody, returned to pick up the destroyed remains of their apartments, and were not charged with any crime. A Moroccan woman associated with the group of men was quoted as saying that if some crime had been committed, if some arms had been found, or any other problem, the way they were treated would be “OK.” But, she said, “the police have nothing to say to us” about why they were attacked in this manner.

Sidi M’hammed El Idrissi, a 61-year-old who had been a carpenter at the US Embassy in Morocco for 32 years before emigrating to the US and Revere, Massachusetts, said that he has letters of commendation for his work at the Embassy. He does not speak English, so through an interpreter he concluded: “We see this in the movies…. I will go back where I had my honor in Morocco. It’s better to go back.”

Homegrown Terrorism

President Barak Obama defined terrorism as the wanton and deliberate targeting of civilians, non-combatants for military attack, towards the objective of striking fear in the population of one’s political opponents. Does this attack fit the criterion of terrorism as defined by the President? Were these Moroccans non-combatants? Were they not brutalized, maced, tear-gassed, their homes demolished? Did this attack strike fear in the population?

“Heart attack! Heart attack!,” a still-rattled Mohamed Boukikar, a 37-year-old Moroccan who works as a parking valet in the North End of Boston, said as he walked by the house.

This reporter followed up on the story provided by the Boston Globe, and got similar reactions from residents of the area where the attack took place:

One resident on the same street, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was much noise in the early morning hours which woke up the residents of the block. Linda Britto, a resident of Revere, immigrant from Cabo Verde, said, “There are crazy and hateful people in this world who have nothing better to do than bother their neighbors.…” Houda (who did not want her last name used), who is a Moroccan Muslim living in Revere, said, “I believe there are people in the United States who do not want people of other nations and religions to live here in peace.”

Rosa Guerra, a Revere resident living near the area under observation, immigrant from Guatemala, said “Maybe the police want to be famous. The police sometimes have nothing better to do than to harass innocent citizens….” Marlene Garcia, who lives on the same street as the victims of the police attack, is an immigrant from Guatemala. She made a parallel to her experience living under military dictatorship in her country-of-origin: “In my country, the military is even more crazy than in this country. I come to this country so that I can get away from violence like this.”

When asked whether she considers this attack to be of the terrorist variety, another Muslim Moroccan resident of Revere, Soukaina Rasfanjani, said “No, these Moroccans were not committing any crime at all.” In other words, Soukaina thought that the principal criteria for terrorism must be that the actor had to be Arab or Muslim. Since the Arabs/Muslims in this story were committing no crime, there must not be any terrorism present. Soukaina has lived here for less than one year, and in that small time she has absorbed the prejudices of the majority culture enough to believe that only Arabs and Muslims are perpetrators of terrorism.

Today, as most of the media attention is directing us towards the insults, personal attacks and sexual abuse perpetrated by one of the presidential candidates, under the Obama administration racism and religious bigotry are the norm and getting worse throughout the United States. An African American observer of the Revere terrorist attack made a parallel to his experience. Toussaint Moreno said, “Yes, the local police, country-wide, are routinely gunning down un-armed Black men in the street. These are non-combatants being selected for on-the-spot execution. Is this not terrorism? But, clearly, we are not the only targets. This attack on this Muslim family here in Revere, Massachusetts is only the tip of the iceberg. It is part of a national trend.”