Monday, March 31, 2014

Restorative Dialogue Resolves 9/11 Hate Crime

(Part 2 in a series of 2)

by Ted Lewis

The anti-Muslim hate crime on 9/11 in Eugene, Oregon, was not the only one in the nation that happened soon after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. In fact, over the next couple of months, anti-Muslim crimes increased by 1700% in comparison to all of the prior months in 2001 before 9/11. Over the next decade, this percentile dropped substantially, but in 2010 and 2011, ten years after the event, the United States saw another dramatic rise of hate crimes targeted against American Arabs and Muslims, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. These trends even including members of Sikh communities, partly due to the misinterpretation of turban head dresses.

Offsetting this unfortunate news is the good news of how the Eugene hate-crime case resulted in a positive outcome through a restorative dialogue process. (Read Part 1 for more background). After preparation meetings and a first joint meeting that included many community members and stakeholders from justice agencies, the Muslim victim party and the male offender chose to return to a second joint meeting to find fuller resolution. The first meeting ended on a tenuous note, and it was decided that everyone needed a two-week break before resuming the conversation. As mentioned before, I was the main facilitator for the case.

After the meeting, the offender, Chris, confided to me how he lost a baby son in former years during mid-September, and every year it triggered him into a hard, angry place. I encouraged him to find a way to share this with the group when we would meet again. Chris kept seeing a counselor, and I checked in often with Tamman and Patricia Adi (the victim representatives) to make sure they were ready to move forward. They wrote out some new questions they wanted to ask Chris. A plan was made to use this second meeting to review the harms and impacts in the first hour, and to create reparation agreements in the second hour.

On October 30 the whole group met again for another conference. Community members were helpful in creating the initial conversation. The Adi's were able to ask more questions. Eventually Chris was able to explain his deep psychological triggers that partly accounted for his outbursts of misguided anger. At that point Tamman Adi said, "I'm satisfied with what I have heard. I think we can now move forward." After this there was a palpable shift in the room; the mood clearly moved from a tense to a relaxed state. This created an optimistic setting for everyone to discuss reparation ideas for the future. It also created a safe space for Tamman to make eye contact, for the first time, with Chris.

Among the five practical agreements for restitution, the Adi's asked for Chris to write a public apology letter for the newspaper, and attend two lectures on the history of Islam. He also agreed to cooperate with news coverage, continue his counseling, and speak to a group of youth offenders in juvenile detention. When the offender said that his job might be jeopardized by all the news coverage, Tamman Adi said that he would personally take steps to help him retain his work. When the meeting came to an end, Tamman reached out to shake Chris's hand. Everyone recognized by then that some deep and satisfying resolution had taken place to help people move on from many hurt feelings. The DA prosecutor was also satisfied with the outcome, and all reparations were fulfilled within the next four months.

In his apology letter that was printed as a Letter to the Editor, Chris said that he was sorry for the hurtful things he said, and that in Eugene he experienced Muslims as "peaceful loving people." He added, "I thought all people of Islam faith were terrorist. I was wrong. Islam is not about what you see on TV." Altogether, this case, just weeks after the bitter taste of 9/11, presented a sweet ray of hope as people journeyed together from hatred to healing.

No comments:

Post a Comment