Over 100 Organizations Join ADC and SALDEF in Opposing Racist Flyer
January 11, 2006
Washington, DC –The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) are alarmed by the current campaign associating the wearing of a turban and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) with terrorism.
ADC, SALDEF, and 101 national and local organizations (see full list below) are strongly opposed to a recent flyer campaign launched by the Nutritional Health Alliance (NHA) depicting Senator Durbin wearing a turban with the words, “Keep Congressional Terrorism at Bay.”
While we are aware of legitimate political differences in the debate on supplement regulation, the flyer produced by the NHA transgresses the boundaries of both legitimate and civil political discourse. The flyer serves as nothing more than hatemongering and uses stereotypes to support its point of view. We are disappointed that NHA would be engaged in the production of such a racist flyer that serves to perpetuate an increased environment of prejudice and hate against the Sikh, Muslim and Arab American communities
The flyer (click here for flyer) makes an explicitly false correlation between individuals who wear turbans and terrorism or terrorist activities. It also attacks Senator Durbin and associates him with terrorism.
The turban is a mandatory article of faith for the Sikh community. Adherents of the Sikh faith are required by their religion to keep uncut hair and cover their head with a turban. Additionally, many Muslims and Arabs wear turbans for cultural reasons. The turban is a sign of respect, dignity and humility and should not be associated with terrorism or terrorist activity.
ADC, SALDEF and the other cosponsors urge NHA to remove the flyer from any further distribution immediately. We further ask that a public apology be made and posted on the NHA‘s website. Legitimate public debate must not be tainted with images that continue to create a dangerous environment of xenophobia and hate crimes for innocent Sikh, Muslim, Arab and South Asian Americans.
Click here to read the letter to NHA
Click here to read the letter to Senator Durbin
The letters were endorsed by the following organizations:
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
Arab American Institute (AAI)
Alliance for Global Justice
American Immigration Lawyers Association
American Humanist Association
American Liberty and Freedom for All (ALAFFA)
American Muslim Voice
Arab American Family Support Center
Arab American Forum
Arab American Support Network
Arab Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
Art for Action
Asian American Justice Center (AAJC)
Catholics for a Free Choice
Center for Understanding Islam
City University of New York School of Law Immigrant Initiatives
Coalition Against Injustice
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Committee Against Hate Media Steering Committee (CAHM Steering)
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Japanese American Citizen‘s League
Korean Resource Center (KRC)
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Leadership Conference for Civil Rights (LCCR)
Making the Road by Walking
Media Action Network for Asian Americans
Muslim American Public Affairs Council
National Association of Muslim American Women
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)
National Asian Pacific American Women‘s Forum
National Council for Jewish women
National Council of La Raza
National Immigration Forum
National Immigration Project
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Network for Arab American Communities
North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA)
Organization of Chinese Americans
PRIME — Ecumenical Committee to Refugees
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow
The Applied Research Center
The Interfaith Alliance (TIA)
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
U.S. Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation
Voter‘s Speak Up
Wing Luke Asian Museum
World Sikh Council—America Region
YKASEC – Empowering the Korean American Community
Youth Leadership Support Network
Young Women‘s Christian Association— United States (YWCA-US)
American Civil Liberties Union — North Carolina Chapter
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee — New Jersey Chapter
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee — New York Chapter
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee — New Orleans Chapter
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee — Washington D.C Chapter
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee — Wisconsin Chapter
Arab American Association of New York
Arab American Community Coalition — Washington
Asian Counseling and Referral Service — Washington
Asian Law Caucus, CA
Asian Pacific Directors Coalition of Seattle — Washington
Asian Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center — WA- Washington
Bay Area Sikhs, CA
Bethlehem Association — Southern California Chapter
Center for Asian American Advocacy, California
Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Arab Affairs
Chinese Information and Service Center – Washington
Council on American-Islamic Relations — Chicago Chapter
El Pueblo Inc — North Carolina
Hate Free Zone Washington
Helping Link – Washington
Hispanic Coalition Corp – Florida
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Interfaith Freedom Foundation — California
Irish Immigration Center — New England
Korean American Resource and Cultural Center
Law Office of Theresa Sandhu
Maryland Arab American Committee
Media Action Network for Asian Americans
Michigan State Representative Steve Tobocman (12th District, Southwest Detroit)
Muslim American Society of Arizona
Muslim Students Association at Passiac County Community College — New Jersey
Neighborhood House – Washington
New Orleans Palestine Solidarity
New York Coalition for Immigrants‘ Right to Drivers‘ Licenses.
New York Immigration Coalition —New York
North Carolina Justice Center
Organization of Chinese Americans – Greater Seattle Chapter
Rockland Immigration Coalition — NY— New York
Sikh Educational and Charitable Trust, CA
Sukkar, Arevalo, and Associates — Florida
The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC)
Washington Asian Pacific Islander Families Against Substance Abuse — Washington
Copyright 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
January 10, 2006 Tuesday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A1
LENGTH: 901 words
HEADLINE: Muslim bashing seemingly in vogue Vitamin flier portraying Sen. Durbin in headwear now a sign of the times.
BYLINE: By Adam Jadhav ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
What in the world do dietary supplements have to do with turbans and terrorism?
That political head-scratcher confronted at least some vitamin buyers around the nation who found a flier with their mail-order nutrients carrying the bold headline, “Get a Turban for Durbin!”
An image shows Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, wearing the headwrap, common in parts of the Middle East and south Asia and sacred religious garb in some faiths, including the entire Sikh religion.
The flier’s kicker: “Keep Congressional Terrorists At Bay.” The flier was distributed last month by a pro-vitamin and supplement group.
Critics say the flier is yet another example of Muslim bashing. The designer of the flier, who has since pulled it, admits that it was over the line but said he put it out to draw attention to what he thinks is improper action by Durbin.
Dietary supplement makers attack Durbin because he wants regulation requiring them to report serious side effects of their products. The proposals are driven in part by deaths related to ephedra, the popular stimulant and diet pill pulled from the market in 2004.
Vitamin and supplement makers oppose the idea, saying that mere coincidence — someone having a heart attack while taking Vitamin C — would scare off consumers and cripple sales. Attacks on Durbin have been led by the Melville, N.Y.-based Nutritional Health Alliance, which published the “Turban” handout.
Durbin decries the flier as offensive and a political cheap shot. The 61-year-old senator says he doesn’t want to harm the industry and admits to taking a daily regimen of pills himself — fish oil, a multivitamin, a B complex, an antioxidant and half an aspirin.
“They’re throwing around this kind of reckless rhetoric,” Durbin said. “The rhyme makes the story here.”
Even Jerry Kessler, director of the Nutritional Health Alliance, chief executive officer of N.Y.-based Natural Organics and designer of the circular, said it was a purely political response to regulations proposed by Durbin. He also agreed the flier was “not fair” and “in bad taste.”
“Desperate times require desperate actions,” Kessler said. “I’m certainly going to do what’s necessary to call attention to our cause. If I sound to you like a hate-monger, then I can’t help it.”
More than a million copies of the flier were sent to vitamin and supplement buyers, and Kessler said he’s responded personally to phone calls and letters from people he has offended. Now, a new flier — a newsletter making specific arguments against Durbin’s proposals — has been substituted in mailings.
Muslims ‘an easy target’
Experts and scholars say the flier is a sign of the times: Political vitriol has always pushed the envelope, and it seems anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice today is almost vogue.
“Muslims are an easy target unfortunately in our culture,” said Nancy Snow, adjunct professor of political communication at the University of Southern California. “It’s become sort of a hybrid enemy image, like it or not. We may say we have no issue with Islam, but we do fear terrorists and we do see opponents that are from the Middle East.”
Civic and political groups, including the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have condemned the flier but say they’re not entirely surprised.
“Our friends in the Jewish communities or the black communities or the Latino communities have fought this kind of defamation for years,” said Kareem Shora, director of the legal department of the Washington-based antidiscrimination committee. “Now it’s our turn.”
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and cryptic messages of extremist groups pledging allegiance to a radical version of Islam, there’s at least some perception that the religion and violence go hand in hand.
For example, a magazine ad ran this fall showing the CV-22 Osprey — a product of Boeing Co. and Bell Helicopter — and members of the armed forces descending by rope from a plane onto a mosque surrounded by smoke and fire. Boeing officials quickly apologized, saying they never approved the ad.
Last month, a group critical of North Carolina’s licensing of drivers launched a billboard campaign showing a person dressed in a kaffiyeh — the traditional male headdress in some Arab countries — and holding a hand grenade. The signs read: “Don’t License Terrorists, North Carolina.”
That the ads were ever conceived is just one more hint at a subtle trend, scholars say.
“The word ‘ayatollah’ has entered our American lexicon — when you label someone an ayatollah you label someone intolerant or cruel,” said Kenneth Cuno, director of the Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois. “The word ‘jihad’ — if you don’t like what I’m doing, you might say I’m waging a jihad against X, Y or Z.
“This association with Islam and terrorism, it’s part of the same phenomenon,” Cuno added.
Though some racist images — the drunk Irishman or the rich Jew — are largely understood to be wrong and hurtful, it appears Muslims and Arabs, in today’s world, aren’t yet off-limits.
“There is this feeling that it’s somewhat of an open season on Muslims,” said Rabiah Ahmed, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Washington. “If you replace Islam and drop in any other religion and said, ‘Blank is a terrorist religion,’ it would never be tolerated.”