A recent commentary written by Arturo Brooks lacked the most basic standards of integrity, fairness, or journalistic professionalism or ethics. The clearly bias-driven commentary included multiple slanted characterizations of both the content and intent of panelist contributions of the “Who Are the Refugees?” forum held at CSUSB on Feb. 21. His article contains blatant misrepresentations of the lectures and many alternative facts that can easily be exposed. Since I was one of the invited panelists, I will comment on a few of his misrepresentations.
Brooks started his commentary by excusing Islamophobia because, in his words, people have “legitimate concerns of illegal immigration and involvement in international conflicts.” No, Islamophobia and any other form of bigotry are never acceptable. One can be concerned about national security without promoting fear of an entire race or religion. Doing that makes one a bigot, a racist.
Driven by a twisted understanding of patriotism, Brooks then went on to justifying or whitewashing the various examples of racism and bias that I discussed from the history of our country.
He complained that my information regarding the enslavement of Africans somehow made “the U.S. to appear guilty.” And in response to my condemnation of our country’s immoral incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese Americans in isolated concentration camps during WWII, Brooks objected that I “neglected to explain the reasoning behind the scare that caused the U.S. to take this course of action.” Can one really believe that their irrational fear of innocent people solely on the basis of their ethnic, national, or religious background could justify mistreating them and denying them due process?
To highlight the plight of current refugees, I drew a parallel between how, during WWII, we turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi brutality and how we are currently doing the same to Syrian refugees fleeing Assad and ISIS brutality. Brooks shockingly excused the rejection of those Jewish refugees by the U.S. under the pretext of “protection of national security in light of current events and fears of that time.” Those arguments clearly explain why he has no problem with the current Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies.
Illustrating how Islamophobia has led our country to engage in policies that go against our values of justice and due process, I mentioned how the US-run Guantanamo detention center held hundreds of men and boys without charges or due process. Brooks blatantly used alternative facts in order to justify the injustices in Guantanamo. He claimed that there were more than 500 convictions on terrorism related charges. However, these numbers are not related to Gitmo. The real facts are that 779 people were placed in Gitmo. ONLY 8, not 500, were convicted by illegitimate military commissions, three of these convictions have been reversed. Basically, there were five convictions out of 732 illegal detentions. After many years of illegal detentions, 532 were released by former U.S. president George W. Bush and 198 were released by former U.S. president Barack Obama.
Yet another false statement by Brooks, “Ayloush also stated, “White people are the biggest domestic terrorists,” not revealing his source.” No, I did NOT say this, not even close. Without any regard to integrity or accuracy, he placed his fake quote of me between quotation marks. What I actually said (and the video of the talk is available) is that our government’s statistics indicate that the number one source of domestic terrorism in America is White supremacist and White militia groups. There is a big difference between those two statements and it is clear that Brooks is intent on defaming and misrepresenting me in order to advance his clearly anti-Muslim views.
There is so much more to write about to debunk Brooks’ alternative facts and reality; however, I believe that the best way to learn about that informative event is to watch it for yourself. I invite the campus community to view the standing room only event, which was made public to everyone at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7hUcvlYZ_0&feature=share.
Ignorance, fear, and bigotry can only be challenged through information.
Hussam Ayloush, M.B.A.
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Greater Los Angeles Chapter