Treatment of U.S. Muslims now compared to Japanese-Americans during WWII

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ByDavid Ono via KABC logo
Friday, December 16, 2016
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Japanese Americans who experienced racism during WWII attended a White House event in which their experiences were compared to the challenges facing Muslim-Americans today.

WASHINGTON D.C. (KABC) -- Eyewitness News anchor David Ono emceed an event at the White House that sought to link the experiences of Japanese-Americans during World War II to some of the difficulties Muslim-Americans are facing in today's America.

During the war, more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent living in the United States, the majority of them on the West Coast, were rounded up and placed into internment camps out of fears they would secretly aid the Japanese government.

Those fears were later considered unfounded and the effort has been seen by modern historians as based on racism. The federal government later apologized and paid reparations to camp survivors.

"There wasn't a single case of espionage in this entire population," Ono noted during his address at the White House. "Not a single case. Yet they all were sent into camps."

Today, there are similar concerns about Muslims in the United States being targeted based solely on their religion because of unfounded fears they have links to terrorism.

Muslim-Americans joined with Japanese-Americans to speak at the event aimed at fighting a repeat of the prejudices of the past.

"I'm sorry that your faith is too strong, that it's become a threat to the people around you," said spoken-word poet Sakila Islam. "Instead of realizing how beautiful your voice sounds coming from the minaret of a mosque."

Gary Mayeda, president of the Japanese American Citizens League, said even with 75 years separating the two eras, some of the things happening to Muslim-Americans are reminiscent of how Japanese-Americans were targeted for their race.

"We have people in Southern California whose lives were ripped apart and we don't want to see this happening to the Muslim-American community," Mayeda said. "So we want to share our experiences to let them know that we stand with them in solidarity."

With the end of President Barack Obama's term approaching soon, one question popped up many times during the White House event: Would a conversation like this take place under the presidency of Donald Trump?

That's an issue that had a number of people at the event concerned.