Friday, September 21, 2001
Davis Urges Talking, Interfaith Activities to Fight Hate Crimes
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Gov. Gray Davis yesterday urged Californians to talk out their anger and frustrations about last week’s terrorist attacks and touted the benefits of interfaith gatherings as a way to foster understanding.
“No American has the right to raise their hand to another American in anger, especially if the cause is a person’s ethnicity or religion,” Davis said at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles.
Over 300 Arab Americans were killed in last week’s terrorist attacks, Davis said.
“Arab Americans are the victims of this disaster, not the perpetrators,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you were born in East L.A. or in the Middle East. If you’re an American, you’re in our family.”
Davis applauded the “work session” he attended yesterday at Los Angeles County Sheriff’s headquarters with Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Sheriff Lee Baca and more than 50 community and religious leaders of different faiths, saying interfaith gatherings are a helpful way of Californians working through this tragedy together and understanding each other.
“We’re all on the same side of this issue,” he said. “People need to view one another in an appropriate way.”
The session was used to discuss strategies to prevent potential violence against Arab American and Muslim American communities and understand the way hate is perpetuated.
Baca held a similar meeting just a day after last week’s attacks to let religious and community leaders know that hate incidents will not be tolerated.
“These meetings give us the ability to understand the things that lead to hate and hate crimes,” Baca said.
Baca said in addition to physical and verbal hate incidents, e-mails and websites are of concern to law enforcement as they have the ability to spread ideas quickly.
Numerous hate crimes have been reported in the wake of last week’s terror attacks.
State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said Wednesday his office is investigating 70 possible hate crimes against Muslims, Arab Americans and others that have allegedly occurred since last week’s terror attacks.
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has received 37 reports of possible hate crimes during that same time.
To combat hate, Davis encouraged people to spend time with people of different faiths, to participate in a “Mitzvah,” spending time doing good deeds for the community, and to learn about other religions.
Some Islamic and Jewish leaders have been switching congregations to educate people about the other’s religion, Davis said.
Increasing awareness was one of the session’s hottest topics as Yaroslavsky urged schools and school districts to take an hour to talk to students about Islam, Arab Americans, and what the students themselves think about recent events.
“The more you know, the less you will hate,” Yaroslavsky said.
Davis said he has been in contact with sheriffs and local elected officials across the state, encouraging them to engage in similar interfaith activities.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company