San Francisco--(AP) - Mits Koshiyama's memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor are intertwined with recollections of being forced to live in an internment camp with 11,000 other Japanese-Americans. Now Koshiyama worries history could repeat itself - this time for American Muslims.

To mark the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans from the Bay Area folded more than 2,000 paper cranes as a symbol of solidarity with Muslims, whom Koshiyama and others see as new victims of discrimination. "We were put into concentration camps without due process of law," said Koshiyama, 77, who spent almost two years at Heart Mountain camp in northern Wyoming. "I always believed that was wrong. I hope that doesn't happen again."

Members and friends of Nosei, a Japanese-American organization, made the brightly colored origami cranes for a Muslim community group in Santa Clara, about 45 miles south of San Francisco. Koshiyama planned to join them as they presented the cranes Friday night. For Manami Kano, talk of military tribunals, plans to question 5,000 Middle Eastern men and increased scrutiny of immigrants are uncomfortable reminders of similar Japanese-American experiences after Pearl Harbor. "Japanese-Americans feel a special responsibility to raise this question and speak loudly on it," said Kano, whose mother and grandparents were interned at Manzanar and Tule Lake camps in California. "Right now the Arab and Muslim communities don't have the luxury of questioning as vocally as we are."

Islamic community advocate Yousef Al-Yousef said Muslims appreciate Japanese-Americans "standing by us" in the aftermath of Sept. 11. "We felt for the Japanese in the past, but now we feel a lot more because we're going through some of what they had to go through," said the Santa Clara engineer. "The biggest problem really is the fear factor and the insecurity that people have."

As Japanese-Americans did 60 years ago, many Middle Eastern immigrants are trying to keep a low profile. Some are avoiding prayer sessions, Al-Yousef said. "Some people are thinking, 'Is this really the country I want to live in? Do I want to raise my kids so that they become second-class citizens?"' he said.

Koshiyama knows that feeling firsthand. He was among 120,000 Japanese-Americans interned by the order of President Franklin Roosevelt after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He, his parents and six brothers and sisters were forced to abandon the California strawberry fields they farmed. "We don't hear a call to repeat the precise mistake of the Japanese internment, but there are parallels," said Georgetown University law professor David Cole, a constitutional law expert. "In times of fear, we often overreact by engaging in guilt by association rather than focusing on individual culpability," Cole said. "That's what we did during World War II and during the McCarthy era, and that's what we're doing today."

The Pearl Harbor anniversary is typically a patriotic time, when veterans are honored and survivors gather to remember their comrades. For older generations of Japanese-Americans, however, Dec. 7 is a day viewed with a mixture of caution and fear. "Japanese-Americans feel jittery around Pearl Harbor day. They're worried about being associated with the enemy during that time," said Lisa Nakamura, a Nosei member who helped organize the Friday event. For Muslims, "we're hoping that legacy doesn't come for them in terms of Sept. 11." Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad