When the Emperor is Divine

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a story about a Japanese American family who is ordered to evacuate their house and move to an internment camp. Japanese Americans during World War II, who lived in Washington, California and other parts of Arizona, were sent to these detention camps in secluded areas of the United Sates. More than fifty percent of these Japanese were U.S. citizens and their crime was that they belonged to a Japanese Ancestry. The story depicts the experiences of a family who are sidetracked like thousands of other Japanese Americans. Likewise, there’s a large group of people in the United Sates who encountered the similar experiences after the September 11 attack.

Since 9/11 attack, Muslim Americans have been widely persecuted. Brown skinned people are most targeted that are perceived as Muslims. I have many friends that dealt with police harassments after the tragedy. People looked at Muslims differently and doubted their religion and personal lives. Most Americans viewed Islam as a religion of violence rather than peace. But a religion cannot be bad, its followers can. The 9/11 terrorists broke all the laws and disgraced Islam. Regardless of how much it is claimed but they cannot be Muslims because murderers have no religion and they were mass murderers.

Because of their unscrupulous action, Muslims all over the world had to suffer immensely. Since the aftermath of 9/11, Muslims resided in fear and without an apparent cause many were being interrogated, jailed, and specially registered because of their Islamic ancestry. The conditions of Muslims today in the U.S. are very similar to Japanese Americans during World War II. The Japanese were shifted to the internment camps to prevent from helping the rivals. Likewise, Muslims are being hated on and distinguished as enemies. As a result, they are also in detention camps as the Japanese and the only distinction is its implicitness.

Furthermore, the author describes the experience of each character in a detailed manner. The little girl seemed to worry about her appearance. She asks her mother, “Is there anything wrong with my face? People were staring” (Otsuka 15.) At that moment, she doesn’t realize that people stared because they identified her as a Japanese American and they knew what fate has in stored for them. Similarly, many Muslims and their families had to cope with the suspicious stare in the streets by police officers and even pedestrians. They had to cope with others’ angers and frustrations.

For example, a friend of mine who wears headscarf, often have to deal with gazes in the subways. She has said that the headscarf made people treat her differently as opposed to when she didn’t wear it. Also, soon after the attack, her mother who wore headscarf was hurled by rocks on her way to the supermarket. Then she had to make a quick stop at a nearby store to escape from the misanthropist. She was frightened when she returned home and temporarily stopped wearing the headscarf until the situation became somewhat normal. Muslims are alienated and oppressed in the same way as the Japanese Americans during WWII. To sum up, Muslim Americans lives in fear and virtually in internment camps as the Japanese Americans. Ironically, many Japanese Americans now feels that history may repeat again with Muslims after September 11 attack. The sufferings of Japanese Americans are a reminder that peoples’ rights are not protected by the government or the law.



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