The Second Wave of Terror Against Americans Who Look Muslim

A new terrorist war inside the United States targets Americans who wear turbans, pray in Muslim mosques, are mistakenly identified as Muslims -- or look like Osama bin Laden.

The victims are men and women going to work or out shopping, children on the way to school, people kneeling for God's blessing. Since the horrific hijack-attacks of September 11, this second wave of terrorism has left three people dead, dozens wounded, and thousands of South Asian and Arab Americans terrified.

On Monday, September 17:

* In San Diego a bomb exploded at the Islamic Center,

* In Austin, Texas incendiary devices were thrown on the roof of Nation of Islam Mosque (the fourth such incident in a week),

* In Ohio a man drove his car through the entrance to the state's largest Mosque.

* In Bridgeport, CT, Muslims meeting for prayer services arrived to find the phone wires cut and graffiti reading "you will all die."

Balbir Singh Sodi, who lived in Mesa, AZ, apparently became the first casualty in America's homespun terrorism last Saturday.

"He was just standing outside supervising some landscape work," said his cousin, Adam Singh, "when a red pickup rolled into the station. The man rolled down the window and shot three times -- he didn't even come out of his truck, he just slowed down -- and sped away. Balbir died on the spot."

Singh firmly believes the murder of his cousin was a hate crime, based solely on his clothing and skin color. "He is a Sikh and he wears a turban and has a full grown beard. And the media has been showing bin Laden on the TV all the time wearing a turban and with a flowing beard and. . . that is why somebody just picked him out."

"I am an American," Frank Roque, 42, told police, after he was charged with Sodi's murder. "Arrest me, let those terrorists run wild."

Roque was apparently on a one-man crusade. After Sodi, he opened fire on a Lebanese attendant at another gas station and on the private residence of a Pakistani family. Roque is being held on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Singh says the family wants proper justice, but not revenge. "We don't take it lightly," said Adam Singh, "but we are ready to forgive and live here in peace -- we want everybody to live in peace. Nobody should be targeted because of the way they look or for no reason. That is very un-American. We love this country and we are as pained as anyone by what happened in Washington and New York."

On Saturday, within hours of Sodi's murder, two other men were killed apparently only because of skin color and religion. In Dallas, Waqar Hasan, 46, a Pakistani and the father of four young girls, was found on the floor of his small grocery store with multiple gunshot wounds. The FBI is investigating the killing as a possible hate crime.

Hasan's brother-in-law, Zahid Ghani -- a seasoned journalist for a Pakistani news service -- is convinced it was a hate crime. "When somebody comes to commit a robbery they come to get the money. There was $2,000 in Waqar's cash register and $300 in his pockets. Nothing on the shelves in the store was touched. This is definitely a hate crime."

Ghani said his brother-in-law had little interest in global conflicts. "If you asked him where Washington D.C. was," he said, "he'd probably say it was in London. He was a cool, very peaceful man."

The murder of Adel Karas that same afternoon mirrors the Hasan killing. Two gunmen entered his International Market in Los Angeles and gunned him down at close range. Family members say attackers thought he was Muslim. There was no indication of robbery.

Legislation condemning violence against Arab Americans, American Muslims and Americans from South Asia, was approved unanimously in Congress last week, but Ghani thinks it will do little good.

"It should end, but its not going to," he lamented.

"It's going to take time, not in a week, not in a month."

Ghani feels the media plays a major role in the attacks. "All this hatred that is coming against all Muslims is the responsibility of the media. They don't just say Osama bin Laden, they keep saying 'Muslim.'

"When Timothy McVey blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma they didn't refer to him as a 'Christian bomber.' This media provokes people by using the word 'Muslim' for all terrorists."

PNS associate editor Dennis Bernstein is an award-winning investigative reporter and producer of "Flashpoints," a daily KPFA radio news program in Berkeley, CA.

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