WASHINGTON — Shortly before the December holidays, an olive-skinned construction worker showed up to his job to find two holes drilled into his toolbox with wires sticking out – a prank by his co-workers, whose intention was to make the toolbox look like a bomb.
Taped onto the toolbox was a photoshopped picture of Osama bin Laden, with the construction worker’s face superimposed onto the image. The man’s supervisor called him into his office, “What’s going on here?” he asked. “Are you a terrorist? A jihadist?”
Skyrocketing reports of discrimination and hate crimes against Arab-Americans in recent months have alarmed many in the community. An advisory issued in late December warned Muslims and other Arab-Americans to familiarize themselves with the emergency exits at their places of worship and to communicate with law enforcement, if possible requesting police protection during evening prayers.
Many say they know what’s behind the surge. “I strongly believe that it has to do with the political rhetoric,” says Ayoub Abed, legal director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which issued the advisory. “It has a lot to do with what we’ve seen in the past month, the upcoming elections, what the candidates are saying.”
Abed is not alone. Many in the Arab-American community reiterated his sentiments. “This is no longer post 9-11 backlash. We’re far beyond that. I really believe this is a second wave of Islamaphobia,” says Ayoub.
In December, the number of discrimination reports to the ADC tripled compared to the same month in 2010, and were nearly 80 percent above the average for the month of December for the past decade. The case of the construction worker was one of them, and Ayoub said his office is overwhelmed.