2001-10-06 / Front Page

Rumors Targeting Ethnic Groups Abound In Wake of WTC Attack

By Howard Schwach

Rumors Targeting Ethnic Groups
Abound In Wake of WTC Attack
By Howard Schwach

There have been few of what police term "bias crimes" in Rockaway in the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, but rumor and innuendo continue to fan the flames caused by that horrific event.

On the evening of the attack, several young men harassed a Muslim storeowner on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 113 Street. They reportedly called him names, blamed him for the events of the day and stole some of his merchandise.

Police then warned other Muslim owners on Beach 116 Street of the attacks and suggested to them that the close for the evening. Most of them complied, but reopened the next morning.

Rumors persist, however, that the owners of those shops and others were "overjoyed by the attack."

One unsubstantiated rumor had it that a customer was told by one of the owners "it was all America’s fault" that the attack happened.

Others reported hearing that the owners were "smiling, telling jokes in Arabic and dancing around" because they were happy over the attack.

After an extensive investigation into this matter by Wave staff and interviews of a number of those allegedly "involved" in the incidents, none of the rumors of innuendos appears to have any basis of fact.

It is difficult, however, to get anyone to speak on the record about this issue.

"This happens every time there is an attack such as this," one local organization head told The Wave. "It is too touchy an issue for anybody to speak on publicly, even when they know that the rumors are not true."

"I know the people who own those businesses," a local activist who declined to be named, told us. "I do business with them every day and I know they are just as concerned with the attack as any other American. There is nothing you can do, however to stop the rumors. They just grow and grow and take on a life of their own."

"I hope that the rumors do not destroy their businesses," he added. "That would be a crime."

Local schools have been addressing the problem of ethnic and racial hate crimes by utilizing a new curriculum developed by the Board of Education. A portion of that curriculum was developed by the Anti-Defamation League to address racial and ethnic stereotyping, and has been in use in many schools for a number of years.

"We should go out and get those who were responsible for this terrible act," a local storeowner says. "But, we shouldn’t pick on anybody who obviously had noting to do with it just because he or she is a Muslim or a follower of any religion."

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