Neighbors or Enemies? > Living with Hate


Saher Malawi

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Arab American Liaison, Chicago Commission on Human Relations

There is a jump in hate violence when there are tensions overseas, for example after 9/11. In the first week after 9/11, 20 hate crimes were reported. Threats were made in stores. Women with veils were spat on or harassed. Teachers made derogatory comments about Islam in schools. Store windows were smashed.

When the Iraq war began, not as many crimes were reported – partly because people were afraid to make reports. People would call us and say that they were being harassed, but they would refuse to file a report.

We also heard that some police officers were refusing to take reports. I advised people to call the commander on duty and tell him they wanted to file a report.

When there are prosecutions, there is always a question as to whether Arab crime victims will keep their court dates. Many cases are dismissed. Store owners say it’s not worth losing a day’s business over. Other people are afraid to make problems.

The Human Relations Commission is trying to track Arab victims. The Civil Rights Unit of the Police Department files the reports. There is no coordination between the two agencies.

My community goes from catastrophe to catastrophe. You can only respond to crisis. There is never any time to sit down and breathe, for the community to look at itself from within, to ask what we need to improve. There is no time for self reflection.

I feel we’re under siege. I have not seen the community so depressed in a long time. My own husband was born here – I don’t know if we should continue living here. What does the future hold for my 11-year-old daughter? Will she be proud of who she is?