Mar 17, 2003
Shortly after midnight on February 23, about 30 skinheads attacked a group of eight teenagers – black, Filipino, Arab and white – in Yorba Linda, California. Shouting racist slurs and white supremacist slogans, the attackers surrounded Rashid Alam, an 18-year-old Arab American. As many as 20 of them kicked Alam's jaw, hit him with golf clubs and baseball bats, stomped repeatedly on his head and stabbed him with a screwdriver. Alam survived, but was left with a fractured jaw and shattered facial bones which needed reconstructive surgery.
Three days later, police arrested two of the attackers, but not those who beat Alam. The two were released after being booked on misdemeanor assault charges for punching another victim. Since then no other charges have been filed, nor arrests made, even though some of the attackers have been openly bragging about the beating around the schools they attend. Police officials have actually admitted that they know the identities of at least four of Alam's attackers, including the person responsible for some of his worst injuries. But they say that "it takes time" to build a case against the perpetrators. A detective told the victim's father that the incident needed to be kept quiet until a thorough inquiry could be conducted. And the police have denied the racist nature of the attack, saying instead that this was an "arranged fight between rival gangs" – as though eight people would "arrange" to engage a fight with 30!
Since 9/11, physical attacks against Arab Americans have been on the rise across the country. According to the FBI, 26% of the 11,451 "hate crimes" reported in 2001 targeted Arab and Muslim Americans. In California's Orange County, where the recent beating took place, such attacks increased by about 50%, from 122 to 181 in one year. Rashid Alam and his brother Mohamed, both recent high school graduates, said that at school they were used to being harassed for their ethnicity.
The Bush administration's drive for a war against Iraq has certainly added fuel to an already existing racism against Arabs living in the U.S. And the thugs who physically attack people will certainly be encouraged by the protection Alam's attackers have been getting from the supposed upholders of "law and order."