12-03-2016  6:02 pm      •     

PHILADELPHIA (NNPA) - When Islamic fascists piloted passenger jets into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, it was a moment that changed how many Americans perceived people of Middle Eastern ethnicity in general and Muslims in particular. Immediately there was a social backlash during which many American Muslims and Middle Eastern immigrants faced resentment where there had been none before.
After the attempted bombing of a passenger plane by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, the question arises again within the African immigrant community. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Abdulmutallab, 23, was charged in a federal criminal complaint with attempting to destroy Northwest Airlines passenger flight 253.
The plane was making its final approach to Michigan's Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Federal authorities allege that Abdulmutallab mixed concealed chemicals in an attempt to blow up the aircraft. He has been charged with willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States and willfully placing and causing to be placed a destructive device within the proximity to the aircraft. If convicted, the defendant faces at least 20 years in federal prison.
"The actions of Abdulmutallab are those of one man and are not representative of us," said local businessman Lansara Koroma, a native of Sierra Leone. Koroma, who is also the founder and executive chairman of the International Forum for the Rights of Black People, also said that the actions of one man can't affect the image of what African people have accomplished.
"African people have done so much and accomplished so much that one man can't tarnish who we are and what we're capable of. This has nothing to do with us," Koroma said.
According to reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, radical African Muslim terrorists are not a new development.
On Aug. 7, 1998, hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. And in November 2009, the Justice Department announced that terrorism charges were filed against eight defendants in Minnesota in an ongoing terrorism investigation.
According to federal authorities, the defendants provided financial support to those who traveled to Somalia to fight on behalf of al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization. The defendants also allegedly attended terrorist training camps operated by al-Shabaab and fought on behalf of the terrorist organization.
Almost all of the defendants were of Somali descent.
"The recruitment of young people from Minneapolis and other U.S. communities to fight for extremists in Somalia has been the focus of intense investigation for many months," said Assistant Attorney General David Kris in a press release. "While the charges underscore our progress to date, this investigation is ongoing. Those who sign up to fight or recruit for al-Shabaab's terror network should be aware that they may end up as defendants in the United States or casualties of the Somali conflict."
Federal investigators said that between September 2007 and October 2009, at least 20 young men, all but one of Somali descent, left Minneapolis for Somalia, where they trained with al-Shabaab.
Many of them ended up fighting with al-Shabaab against Ethiopian forces, African Union troops and the internationally supported Transitional Federal Government.
I'Satta Thomas, 32, a Liberian immigrant and health-care worker who has lived in the United States for more than seven years, said she hasn't seen any difference in the way she's treated by neighbors or her clients.
"Some people are going to be afraid of those who are different no matter what," Thomas said. "But I think that most Americans don't see Africans in general as a threat or that this bombing attempt reflects on us as a people."
Bernard Bility, who is also from Liberia, said he is concerned about the negative image portrayed by the media regarding Abdulmutallab and how it reflects on African people.
"Of course it is negative," Bility said. "And he should be held responsible for his actions but the actions of a single individual reflects on all of us, there is a certain stigma on all of us being West African. It's not fair to us. We live in this society and it can make it difficult for all of us — we can be joined to that crime and we should not be held liable. However, some people might think, 'I wonder if this fellow is from the same place as that fellow.'"
As the investigation into the attempted bombing continues, federal authorities have learned that there were snippets of information from intelligence sources that indicated al-Qaida operatives in Yemen were preparing a Nigerian national for a terrorist attack.
Also, according to federal investigators, Umaru Abdul Mutallab, the father of Abdulmutallab, contacted the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nov. 19, and told of his son's radicalization. Unfortunately, there was not enough evidence to put the suspect on a no-fly list or confiscate his passport. President Barack Obama has demanded an explanation as to why no one managed to connect the dots before Abulmutallab's attempt.
Abana Kwaten, 25, from Ghana, also said she hasn't encountered any problems from the community and thinks that Abulmutallab's attempt to destroy a passenger jet will have no affect on the image of law-abiding African people.
But, like Thomas, she feels that some people will be suspicious just because she is African.
"This isn't going to tarnish our image. That's like saying all Black men are criminals shooting each other on the streets. All Africans aren't terrorists and no one I know is suggesting that," she said. "Of course some people are going to worry about you just because you have a different accent."
But Ishmael Donzo, who owns the Four Seasons Boutique, said he is concerned about how people view the African community because of the attempted bombing.
"I would say yes, it does tarnish our image in the minds of some people just because we are Africans," Donzo said. "We don't believe in what he tried to do, but people will look at us and that question is in their minds. But this is not us — it's not who we are. We don't want the government to start looking at us because of what he's done. This is not what we believe in."
After the 911 attacks, FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report for 2005 indicated a slight rise in incidents of American Muslims suffering post-terrorist attack retaliations. In Pennsylvania, there were 16 reported incidents due to anti-Islamic bias that year.
So far there have been no reported incidents of African immigrants being targeted, law enforcement officials said.
"The impact I think was really against Arab Americans, South Asians and Sikhs," said Marwan Kredie of the Arab American Development Corporation. "Especially against Sikhs because they wear turbans. There was some against Muslims but not to the same degree and that's because whether they're Black or white unless they happen to be wearing some distinctive garb, there's really no way to tell if the person is a Muslim."
Kredie also said that at least in Philadelphia, the resentment against Muslims and Arab Americans was subdued.
"Largely because Philadelphia has a large Muslim population, so there's a more protective element," Kredie said. "I recall an incident where Sikh cab drivers were working in West Philadelphia and had stones thrown at them, but I suspect it was because they didn't stop to make a pick-up."
Koroma said native Africans and African-Americans should ask themselves how Abdulmutallab managed to get as far as he did without tripping wires that would have stopped him.
"America has done more to harm Africa than Africa has done to harm America. In recent history, just look at the invasion of Somalia," he said. "We need to ask ourselves why is this happening and what we can do about it. Let's agree that the wrong people influenced him and ask ourselves why America didn't try to destroy that leadership. Even his father tried to warn officials that his son was trying to do something. They didn't stop him. We came to this country to help make it better, but the press is endorsing the negative image when they should be encouraging good people. There is no reason to hold one country accountable for one man's actions. We need to talk to one another and we want a forum to talk with Americans, especially African Americans."
mmediately there was a social backlash during which many American Muslims and Middle Eastern immigrants faced resentment where there had been none before.
After the attempted bombing of a passenger plane by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, the question arises again within the African immigrant community. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Abdulmutallab, 23, was charged in a federal criminal complaint with attempting to destroy Northwest Airlines passenger flight 253.
The plane was making its final approach to Michigan's Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Federal authorities allege that Abdulmutallab mixed concealed chemicals in an attempt to blow up the aircraft. He has been charged with willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States and willfully placing and causing to be placed a destructive device within the proximity to the aircraft. If convicted, the defendant faces at least 20 years in federal prison.
"The actions of Abdulmutallab are those of one man and are not representative of us," said local businessman Lansara Koroma, a native of Sierra Leone. Koroma, who is also the founder and executive chairman of the International Forum for the Rights of Black People, also said that the actions of one man can't affect the image of what African people have accomplished.
"African people have done so much and accomplished so much that one man can't tarnish who we are and what we're capable of. This has nothing to do with us," Koroma said.
According to reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, radical African Muslim terrorists are not a new development.
On Aug. 7, 1998, hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. And in November 2009, the Justice Department announced that terrorism charges were filed against eight defendants in Minnesota in an ongoing terrorism investigation.
According to federal authorities, the defendants provided financial support to those who traveled to Somalia to fight on behalf of al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization. The defendants also allegedly attended terrorist training camps operated by al-Shabaab and fought on behalf of the terrorist organization.
Almost all of the defendants were of Somali descent.
"The recruitment of young people from Minneapolis and other U.S. communities to fight for extremists in Somalia has been the focus of intense investigation for many months," said Assistant Attorney General David Kris in a press release. "While the charges underscore our progress to date, this investigation is ongoing. Those who sign up to fight or recruit for al-Shabaab's terror network should be aware that they may end up as defendants in the United States or casualties of the Somali conflict."
Federal investigators said that between September 2007 and October 2009, at least 20 young men, all but one of Somali descent, left Minneapolis for Somalia, where they trained with al-Shabaab.
Many of them ended up fighting with al-Shabaab against Ethiopian forces, African Union troops and the internationally supported Transitional Federal Government.
I'Satta Thomas, 32, a Liberian immigrant and health-care worker who has lived in the United States for more than seven years, said she hasn't seen any difference in the way she's treated by neighbors or her clients.
"Some people are going to be afraid of those who are different no matter what," Thomas said. "But I think that most Americans don't see Africans in general as a threat or that this bombing attempt reflects on us as a people."
Bernard Bility, who is also from Liberia, said he is concerned about the negative image portrayed by the media regarding Abdulmutallab and how it reflects on African people.
"Of course it is negative," Bility said. "And he should be held responsible for his actions but the actions of a single individual reflects on all of us, there is a certain stigma on all of us being West African. It's not fair to us. We live in this society and it can make it difficult for all of us — we can be joined to that crime and we should not be held liable. However, some people might think, 'I wonder if this fellow is from the same place as that fellow.'"
As the investigation into the attempted bombing continues, federal authorities have learned that there were snippets of information from intelligence sources that indicated al-Qaida operatives in Yemen were preparing a Nigerian national for a terrorist attack.
Also, according to federal investigators, Umaru Abdul Mutallab, the father of Abdulmutallab, contacted the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nov. 19, and told of his son's radicalization. Unfortunately, there was not enough evidence to put the suspect on a no-fly list or confiscate his passport. President Barack Obama has demanded an explanation as to why no one managed to connect the dots before Abulmutallab's attempt.
Abana Kwaten, 25, from Ghana, also said she hasn't encountered any problems from the community and thinks that Abulmutallab's attempt to destroy a passenger jet will have no affect on the image of law-abiding African people.
But, like Thomas, she feels that some people will be suspicious just because she is African.
"This isn't going to tarnish our image. That's like saying all Black men are criminals shooting each other on the streets. All Africans aren't terrorists and no one I know is suggesting that," she said. "Of course some people are going to worry about you just because you have a different accent."
But Ishmael Donzo, who owns the Four Seasons Boutique, said he is concerned about how people view the African community because of the attempted bombing.
"I would say yes, it does tarnish our image in the minds of some people just because we are Africans," Donzo said. "We don't believe in what he tried to do, but people will look at us and that question is in their minds. But this is not us — it's not who we are. We don't want the government to start looking at us because of what he's done. This is not what we believe in."
After the 911 attacks, FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report for 2005 indicated a slight rise in incidents of American Muslims suffering post-terrorist attack retaliations. In Pennsylvania, there were 16 reported incidents due to anti-Islamic bias that year.
So far there have been no reported incidents of African immigrants being targeted, law enforcement officials said.
"The impact I think was really against Arab Americans, South Asians and Sikhs," said Marwan Kredie of the Arab American Development Corporation. "Especially against Sikhs because they wear turbans. There was some against Muslims but not to the same degree and that's because whether they're Black or white unless they happen to be wearing some distinctive garb, there's really no way to tell if the person is a Muslim."
Kredie also said that at least in Philadelphia, the resentment against Muslims and Arab Americans was subdued.
"Largely because Philadelphia has a large Muslim population, so there's a more protective element," Kredie said. "I recall an incident where Sikh cab drivers were working in West Philadelphia and had stones thrown at them, but I suspect it was because they didn't stop to make a pick-up."
Koroma said native Africans and African-Americans should ask themselves how Abdulmutallab managed to get as far as he did without tripping wires that would have stopped him.
"America has done more to harm Africa than Africa has done to harm America. In recent history, just look at the invasion of Somalia," he said. "We need to ask ourselves why is this happening and what we can do about it. Let's agree that the wrong people influenced him and ask ourselves why America didn't try to destroy that leadership. Even his father tried to warn officials that his son was trying to do something. They didn't stop him. We came to this country to help make it better, but the press is endorsing the negative image when they should be encouraging good people. There is no reason to hold one country accountable for one man's actions. We need to talk to one another and we want a forum to talk with Americans, especially African Americans."

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