BE GOOD HOSTS FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS

September 24, 2001 12:00 am

Eastern Oregon University is on the grow, and we need to keep it that way. It is important with the start of classes Monday to recognize that EOU hosts students from countries around the world and brings the world to La Grande. We want to be good hosts to these students, and show them that we are above petty vengeance based on the color of skin or religious choices.

Across America since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., there have been hundreds of incidents of harassment of not only Muslims but people who vaguely look like they could be Arabic. As former world champion boxer Muhammad Ali, who has practiced the religion for more than 30 years, reminds us, the religion has its foundation in peace, not war. Fundamentalists who have perverted the religion are leading suspects in the crime as the long arm of the federal law spreads out across the world in the

investigation.

Closer to home, what common sense dictates is that we treat individuals with respect, regardless of their religion or the color of their skin or way of dress.

Of course, we want in the worst way justice for the perpetrators of this unimaginably evil crime. The civilized approach to conflict resolution, however, means we have to gather solid evidence against the guilty before exacting punishment. It also means we dont assume everyone who looks vaguely Middle Eastern, or everyone who practices a certain religion, is also guilty by association.

This goes hand in hand with the need for churches, schools and parents in combination to teach anger management and conflict resolution and harassment sensitivity.

There is no easy or simple answer. Anonymous flyers. Vicious attacks. Firebombings of mosques these add to the problem, not the

solution.

The terrible act has been beneficial in one way. It has drawn our communities together, but we must take care that we dont segregate or isolate certain members of those communities. We are relearning the value of community service, with such things as fund drives for the New York victims, and closer to home support for food banks and elder care. The crisis has reawakened a sense of building our communities so they are stronger than ever.

After the terrorist attack, we can either evolve or devolve as a country. Our Democratic values suggest that proper justice means not vigilante justice but a thorough investigation, a fair chance for defense, and then harsh punishment for the perpetrators. Justice and investigation are among the values terrorists fear. But Democratic values also mean protecting the innocent, and being sure in our anger we dont just retaliate blindly. Each individual has the capacity for making a difference in seeing we get through this difficult time and come out the other end stronger as a country and as a role model for the world.