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Publication Date: Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Editorial: Combating local 'micro-terrorists' Editorial: Combating local 'micro-terrorists' (October 03, 2001)

Harassment of Palo Alto area persons of Middle-Eastern appearance is a travesty calling for a strong community response

A Palo Alto woman who is not Muslim last Friday wrapped a dark scarf around her head in the Muslim fashion, tying the ends under her chin and over her shoulders.

She did so after hearing news accounts of cases of harassment, and worse, being inflicted on anyone who looks Middle Eastern or dresses in Middle-Eastern traditional religious fashion.

It was an expression of support for innocent Americans of Middle Eastern ancestry, or who even appear Middle Eastern, who have suffered insults, harassment or physical attacks -- all of which have occurred in Palo Alto and throughout the country in recent weeks.

Her world changed immediately. Some people looked at her suspiciously, some glared. Friends and relatives voiced concerns about her safety. Her husband was supportive but concerned. Her college-age son was upset and her high-school-age daughter was frightened.

Things worsened on Friday when the woman and her daughter returned to their car following a doctor's appointment and found on the windshield a one-word note depicting a portion of anatomy.

The woman, attorney Susan Solomon, is suggesting to Palo Alto churches and others that other women do as she has done.

"I have been especially saddened that Muslim women in my neighborhood, who have their heads covered, are sometimes too frightened to leave their homes," she said in a note to friends.

Solomon said she used an old scarf and just tried to make it appear like a Muslim head-covering. "I don't know if this is an 'official' way of doing this, but it was enough for whoever wrote that note to think I was unworthy of walking the streets of Palo Alto," she said.

The fact of such incidents occurring -- of innocent people afraid to go out in public in Palo Alto, in America -- is a great shame to the nation. Such acts are the farthest thing from patriotism; they are examples of mindless ignorance, of the kind of unthinking hatred that spawned the dreadful acts of terrorism that so shocked and grieved America and the world on Sept. 11.

Solomon's use of her old scarf was an act of courage, compassion and conscience -- well worthy of emulation by the interfaith community and others in our area.

It is a small but perhaps effective way of combating the kind of micro-terrorism that leaves some innocent Americans huddling frightened in their homes -- an intolerable situation in a free nation built on diversity.

Yes, some such incidents may qualify as hate crimes, but a strong statement of community disgust and disapproval may do far more to influence the perpetrators, to get them to think a little about the true meaning of America, than anything else.

'Mandatory mediation' 'Mandatory mediation' (October 03, 2001)resembles a barn door

A proposal to create a "mandatory mediation" program to help Palo Alto renters combat high rents looks a great deal like the proverbial barn door that needs shutting.

In the proverb, the door doesn't get shut until after the horse is gone -- meaning it's a useless gesture. But the proposed "mandatory mediation" program wouldn't even shut the door entirely -- and that only after the entire herd of horses is long gone.

What the ordinance would do, if the City Council acts on it when it comes up on the agenda Oct. 15, is require that landlords and tenants meet one time with a volunteer mediator and at least listen to the mediator's opening statement. Then either side could leave. The ordinance would provide tenants protection from retaliation for requesting mediation for six months -- perhaps its strongest component -- but would have no teeth whatever when it comes to rent increases.

The Tri-County Apartment Association created a serious credibility problem for itself when it launched a campaign of opposition, filled with exaggerations, while professing publicly that it was working with the city. Clearly, most apartment owners have reaped a full measure of benefit from sky-high rents of recent years.

But those rents now are leveling off or dropping. While such an ordinance might have been a good idea four or five years ago, when local mediation services were besieged with anguished calls from desperate renters, it seems a bit late today after many of those renters are long gone to distant communities.


 

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