Connecting Historical Dots: The Legacy of the Japanese Internment Camps & Muslim American Discrimination Today (Event Review)

For my History of Houston class I am taking this semester, I am required to go to 2 events (of my choosing) and write a summary report of the event. I chose to go to an event at the Asia Society of Texas Center where they would discuss the legacy of the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II in comparison to Muslim American Discrimination today. In attending this event, I had already prior knowledge of the Japanese Internment camps as I had once taken a class on Chinese as well as Japanese History; for those that are unaware, I wrote a paper also on the atomic bomb during World War II for that class and the paper enabled me access to my second research conference. That being said, I was able to recall the things I learned from my Japanese History class, as well as my own personal research from those days, but until learning of this event, I didn’t think to relate these events to what is happening to Muslim Americans today. I recommend everyone to learn more about this as well as meet a Muslim and hopefully lose any misconceptions you may have about Muslims. I invite you to start with me.

The following essay is being written in my own tone, not my persona’s. 

Prior to going inside the building of the Asia Society of Texas Center, I saw what appeared to be a relatively small crowd of people a few feet away holding signs and a few American flags. After I parked my car, my friend and I made our way to the building and got a better look at the crowd and I was correct in what I thought it was, a protest. A protest against what, however? Telling the true story of one of the most horrific events in U.S. History and comparing that with Muslim discrimination today?  Yes. Because according to the protesters: it was preposterous to view Muslims as victims of discrimination due to the numerous terrorist attacks around the globe caused by Muslims and Radical Islamic Terrorism. Moreover, it was a chance for these protesters to also express their disdain to why the United States should allow Syrian Refugees to enter the country; also I would be remiss to not bring up how at one particular moment, the gentleman operating the megaphone made it a point mention that they were not attempting to be racist by having this protest. Suffice it to say, I had heard enough.

I was lucky enough to get a front row seat to the actual event meeting and saw Dr. Abbie Grubb, a scholar on Japanese History (especially involving Japanese Interment in World War II), discuss how the United States demonstrated fear and panic against a people from a particular race because they were at war with them and felt they were spies for the Japanese army and in order to be safe, lock them up in camps. In turn, Mustafa Tameez, a leading political player for the city of Houston, would tie that history together with today’s panic and distrust of Muslims in the United States and how the travel ban issued by our president has become more reactive than proactive. Moreover, Tameez brought up the false statistics of Muslim Americans potentially being radicalized and involved in groups such as ISIS because there are 10,000 members in ISIS and over a billion Muslims in the world; therefore, the United States should essentially calm down.

The talk was not only interesting, but what was most intriguing was the ability for some individuals to be so quick to jump to conclusions without recognizing the consequences that can emerge from acting too impulsive. By learning our history, we should be able to acknowledge how previous leaders handled situations and the backlash that emerged should most definitely not be repeated; and by learning, in general, about other cultures and other nations, we can see that the differences among ourselves and other individuals to be scarce. Rather than fearing for our lives and impulsively looking for a quick fix to solve our problems, we should face them head on. And then watch and learn as our issue becomes gradually smaller and even more so, a misunderstanding.

-Ahmed H. Sharma 

Written on the 27th of February, 2017

 

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