Sept. 13, 2001 – Expressions of anger and outright threats against members of the local Arab community have led several of the territory’s leaders speak out against any idea of making scapegoats of Arab people living in the Virgin Islands.
But in some cases, their pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
On Thursday afternoon, someone put up a sign near the Friendly Grocery on the North Side of St. Thomas that read: "Arabs go home: murderers all." The hand-written sign leaned against a post on one side of a residential driveway; an American flag flew beside the post on the opposite side.
Andy Garcia, a Puerto Rican-born worker at the grocery who is the grandson of Palestinian immigrants, said he contacted police about the sign. He said an officer told him there was nothing she could do about it. About 6 p.m. Thursday, the sign remained in place for anyone driving past to see.
Several people of Palestinian descent have expressed their frustration that some people are blaming them for attacks that they themselves find reprehensible. Many of them have said they stand with other Americans who feel the terrorist strikes were an attack against their home.
"They say Arab go home. We are home. This is our home," said Nisren Abusoud, who with her husband, Ali Abusoud, owns the Friendly Grocery.
She said her children were born on St. Thomas, where she has lived for 13 years after emigrating from her native Jerusalem. "This," she said, gesturing to the sign, "creates more problems, you know. It’s calling for hateness, for war. We need to live in peace in the Virgin Islands."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull issued a statement Thursday that he said was in response to reports of threats against members of the Arab community. Urging people to stand together and not vent their anger against any ethnic group, he said he had heard from reliable sources that there had been threats against people of Arab descent. He did not give any details.
He did say, "This must cease. We cannot condone acts or threats of hate or intolerance. The Arab or Muslim residents of the United States Virgin Islands are law-abiding and contributing members of Virgin Islands society."
Sen. Lorraine Berry had issued a release on Wednesday urging that others in the community not blame the local Arab community for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
In the aftermath of the attacks on Tuesday, there have been reports from the mainland of damage to mosques and other violence directed toward Arab Americans.
Garcia noted that non-ethnic Americans were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1993. But that does not mean that all such Americans are murderers, he said.
By the same token, he continued, even if an Arab group is shown to have been responsible for this week’s attacks, it does not make Arabs in the Virgin Islands responsible.
"America is many, many people, from every part of the world," he said, and Arab-Americans make up a part of that patchwork.


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