Anaheim’s Little Arabia, and Trump v. Hawaii (Travel Ban Ruling)


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For those of you who missed it, the Eid Festival in Anaheim on June 16th and 17th was a mostly beautiful event, a testament to the enormous diversity in this ‘City of Kindness.’  The organizers assembled a collection of booths, bouncy houses, rides, a virtual reality simulator truck, speakers, and a fashion festival showing the impressively broad distinctions within the Muslim community that resides in SoCal.

Drive down Brookhurst into Anaheim’s ‘Little Arabia,’ and you’ll witness curiosities unique to this town: mingled with the shops selling fashionable attire for Muslim ladies, the restaurants and vaunted patisseries, the businesses large and small, there’s the remarkably noisy signpost for ‘Honeybaked Ham,’ quite a few liquor stores, and of course, ‘California Girls’ – a “gentlemen’s club.”  The Muslims at Eid Fest probably know ‘Little Arabia’ well: they have grown a thick skin, and shrug away sights they dislike, taking things in stride, contributing to the richness and color that Anaheim offers far-beyond the Mouse track.

That’s probably a little harder when hecklers with bullhorns scream at children entering a public gathering that their parents want to sell them into sexual slavery, that their religion justifies pedophilia.  To me, the vitriol outside recalled other slurs – previous American thugs deemed Catholics to be servants of the ‘whore of Babylon’ – and any Jewish-American knows all to well a long list of other slurs, as do most other groups).  Yet the Muslims entering, some clad in hijabs, most in t-shirts (or jackets), diligently ignored the shouting punks, focusing on the food, the toys and games, and having a good time.

My heart grieves for them today.

Today, the Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. Hawaii means that the President can choose to act to ban Muslims from entering America.  Today, Trump will have a platform from which to continue a campaign of stoking fears and using them to turn out the bullhorn hordes, the fascists and sycophants who love him best.

But one thing at the Eid Fest impressed me about Anaheim.  I spoke briefly with the police officers keeping watch outside – at least a half-dozen guarded the gates, mainly guarding the attendees from a certain sort of right wing thug even viler than the heckler outside, while also preserving the right for even a heckler to speak.  The police were wryly sympathetic to the attendees: no, the hecklers cannot be legally removed so long as they keep their distance and do not pose a direct threat, they have a right to spew their spiel.  But the police were disgusted by those hecklers: a slight roll of the eye, a thousand hints of ‘micro-aggressions’ directed not at the minority groups inside, but the would-be representatives of a ‘majority’ outside who felt they had license to hurl epithets and try to spoil the fun.

Even a horrible Supreme Court decision like Trump v. Hawaii has a few seeds of hope buried within its contents.  The ruling sucks: we assumed when we wrote the law and statutes authorizing temporary bans that they would never be used to support religious animus against any group ever again.  We assumed that we would elect good men (or women) to the presidency, or at least, good men and women would prevent them from playing the same sad old games of bigotry and prejudice that we fought so hard to overcome.  Good men and women would not sit silent, not in America in the face of such attacks upon children!

Well…maybe.

When discouraged by such things, I turn to Peter Gabriel, ‘Biko’ – a paean to a martyr against apartheid in South Africa.  Biko was murdered in 1977 in ‘police room 619.’  At his death, and when the song was penned, the prospects for nonviolent protest overcoming  entrenched bigotry in South Africa seemed remote.  But the “the eyes of the world are watching you now” – and not just the twitter feeds…and the eyes of our world in the OC are big enough to have space for the restaurants, shops, and people of Anaheim’s Little Arabia, and space for all the other children threatened by ugly loudmouthed thugs.


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